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World's first 3G network live today

DoCoMo sticks with 1 October launch

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The world's first 3G network goes live today in Tokyo, Japan. Run by NTT DoCoMo, the networks will enable subscribers to watch video clips and listen to music on new mobile handsets. If two people use the handets they will be able to see one another thanks to an in-built camera on the device.

The service, called Freedom Of Mobile multi-media Access (FOMA) was originally supposed to go live in May this year but technical difficulties and handset delivery delays pushed it back to today.

That said, DoCoMo is still ahead of European rivals and announced with today's service its intention to break into Europe and the US, gaining six million subscribers by 2004.

The service only works at the moment in the centre of Tokyo but that will expanded to other major Japanese cities in the next few months.

It's not cheap though - the handsets will not be subsidised and the most basic will set you back nearly £400. The most expensive is just over £550. And then there's the cost of phone and data calls.

Other mobile companies will be watching the service's uptake very very closely to see how much demand there is for 3G. As will we. There remains the possibility that 3G will make the WAP cock-up look like a minor blip thanks to the huge amounts of money that need to be invested to even get the service running.

If FOMA doesn't take off, expect mobile companies' share prices to plummet since the Japanese are far more likely to jump on 3G due to the widespread use of in-between technology i-Mode - a sort of decent version of WAP.

If you want to know all the fine details, go here. ®

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