NTT DoCoMo touts longer lasting 3G phones

About time

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's dominant mobile operator, is to offer new 3G handsets with longer battery life.

The company said in a statement that new handsets, made by Fujitsu and NEC, will run for between 200 hours and 240 hours, up from the 170 hours to 180 hours of standby time on NTT's older 3G phones. The new handsets will also come with all the typical 3G features, such as integrated digital cameras and video conferencing software. The phones, called the F2102V and N2102V, will sell for about Y30,000 (approx. US$255).

DoCoMo last week said it is to roll out the FOMA 3G service to 261 more towns by the end of June, extending service coverag to 93 per cent of Japan's population.

In October 2001 DoCoMo became the first company in the world to launch a 3G mobile phone service based on the W-CDMA standard, expected to be the most popular 3G standard in the years ahead. Nonetheless, despite the company's pioneering moves in the world of mobile broadband, consumers in Japan did not take to FOMA early on and the company consistently missed growth targets.

Now, however, with its expanded coverage and more impressive handsets, the DoCoMo service is beginning to grow in popularity and last week the firm said that it had 500,000 FOMA customers.

In Europe, where 3G is much newer, take-up has also been slow. Hutchison Whampoa's European 3G operator, dubbed "3," says that that in Italy and the UK combined it has just 125,000 customers after launching in March, far short of its 2 million target for the end of 2003.

Here in Europe, the trouble with 3G may be the result of handsets that consumers simply aren't attracted to. That seems to be the consensus of many of the world's 46 3G operators, who last week described many 3G phones as unfit for mass-market consumption at the 2003 UMTS Congress in Holland.

The attendees, including the likes of Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile, said that new 3G handsets are too chunky, have a short battery life and are expensive. Despite the fact that many new devices come with features like high-speed Web browsing, high voice quality, streaming video and smooth handovers between base stations, most phones don't come with all the features at once.

© ENN

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