Operators blame handsets for 3G delays

Bad user experiences

Mobile operators are blaming handset makers for the delayed launch of 3G.

Speaking at the GSM World Congress in Cannes, Arun Sarin, Vodafone's chief executive, said the phones were not good enough, and that bad user experience is putting people off.

People will simply not sign up to 3G services, unless the handsets match the quality of their 2G and 2.5G counterparts, according to Sarin. But right now, 3G phones are "bulky, get very hot, and they don't have battery life," he said.

Sarin has an ally in T-Mobile's Rene Oberman, who revealed that his company's 3G network is ready in Germany. But poor handsets mean that the launch is delayed.

Handset makers in turn blame poor network coverage for the problems. They say the phones need to be dual-band to cope with patchy coverage and this is the cause of overheating and poor battery performance, the FT reports. In Japan, they say, the coverage is more complete, and the single-band phones used there do not suffer from the same problems.

Last August, Orange's UK finance director, Mike Newnham, complained that Hutchison's early launch of 3 had given people a poor impression of 3G service. Early adopters were disappointed with the quality of the network coverage and the handsets, he said. At the time, 3 accused Orange of sour grapes.

Operators have a huge amount invested in the success of 3G and are understandably anxious to recoup the billions of euros they spent on the licences. The longer they have to wait before the full launch of the service, the greater the chance there is that a competing technology will emerge: i-mode and Wi-Fi, for example, have already rattled a few cages.

If 3G doesn't work fairly quickly, the operators will certainly take a financial hit. Given our love of our mobiles, it is unlikely to be fatal, but outbursts like this are an indication of just how much they have riding on the success of the faster network. ®

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