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Mobile operators go all pantomime on us

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The mobile industry is continuing its Monte Carlo or bust race to get the first 3G network up and running and now we have two companies claiming they have won.

Following its delayed roll-out in Japan (and BT's delayed roll-out on the Isle of Man), NTT DoCoMo now reckons it has in fact launched the world's first 3G network. Hurrah!

But hang on, here comes the South Koreans. We have built the first 3G network in the world, they cry. And so we're top dog.

So who's telling the truth? Well, both and neither are. The South Koreans have a decent network running and claim huge subscriber figures. Except, while they are offering an average of 30Kbps, this is nowhere near what most people mean by 3G. A 3G network should really be belting out 2Mbps.

The thing is, it's running on IS95 - a CDMA extension - which is more two-and-a-bit G than 3G. Europe is planning to run its 3G services on top of UMTS. That said, at least it works, which is more than can be said...

No, no, no, we have 3G says DoCoMo. Well, for 3,300 people anyway. It's only a trial service and so we discount it as a fully fledged network. That hasn't stopped the company advertising the launch all over Japan. It is certain to be ludicrously over-subscribed.

The lucky 3,000 will be based in Tokyo. The company said this month that the main reason for the delay was the lack of handsets available. It hasn't overcome this yet and the trial users are to have upgraded i-Mode phones.

So who's won the 3G race? No one yet. ®

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