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Network launch put back

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NTT DoCoMo - the Japanese company behind the only successful WAP-style phone service, iMode - has delayed the launch of its 3G network until October.

The service was due to be the world's first by being launched at the end of May, but the company has been beset by technical difficulties and has decided to delay the main launch for four months. Yesterday we reported on how Isle of Man telecoms company Manx Telecom was aiming to pip DoCoMo to the post by launching in time for the island's TT races.

The TT races will most likely be cancelled due to foot and mouth and DoCoMo's delay has sparked a meeting at Manx Telecom, which may now delay its launch due to numerous problems with the network, software, content and phones.

The significance of DoCoMo delaying will not be lost on the market. The company became famous for making a huge success of its iMode system in Japan when WAP phones were failing miserably in Europe. Despite losing the entire service several times when its server crashed due to over-exertion, the iMode service started being touted as a replacement for WAP - something that the companies which had investment millions of pounds in the format were not happy to hear.

Attempts to build a 3G network on top of WAP has proved a major headache but at least BT, Vodafone, Orange et al can take comfort from the fact that it's no easier to build on top of iMode either.

DoCoMo's delay will also put the company into hot water financially. It has already spent a small fortune on 3G licences and it was planning on 150,000 subscribers to its 3G service by the end of the year - now it will be looking at 20,000 and that's if the service works by October.

Third generation networks are looking more and more like a colossal mistake. In the mobile industry's huge rush to beat the competition, it is attempting to leap to 3G networks without even having got 2G phones working properly. If the telecoms companies release sub-standard networks onto the market we will see a WAP-style abject failure to attract customers. Except the stakes with 3G are even higher. ®

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