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A third of new mobile contracts in western Europe during Q405 were for 3G services.

Western Europe saw 4m new WCDMA subscribers in 4Q05, equivalent to 32.3 per cent of the region's 12.39m total net subscriber additions for the period, according to Informa Telecoms, the market research firm. It says its figures give the strongest indication to date that 3G is "finally gaining momentum".

W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) is a type of 3G mobile network technology. As the successor to GSM, the technology, rather than the rival CDMA 2000 approach backed by Qualcomm, has been widely used in Europe and elsewhere.

Globally, there were about 8.4m WCDMA subscriptions adds in 4Q05, around eight per cent of the total new mobile users added worldwide during the period. Asia Pacific added 4.4m new WCDMA subscriber in the last quarter of last year, 11 per cent of new subscriptions and the highest regional growth rate. Preliminary figures show that end-2005 there were 44.42m WCDMA subscribers worldwide, an increase of 163.62 per cent over the 16.85m subs registered as of 31 December 2004.

"After years of hype, delays, skepticism and then disappointment, it is a welcome relief to say that WCDMA has finally come of age," said Gavin Patterson, principal analyst at Informa.

Operators planned introduction of HSDPA (High-Speed Download Packet Access a type of 3.5G technology) networks and handsets will herald true, mobile broadband services. "Wi-Fi may have untethered the Internet, and helped to sell thousands of cups of coffee, but HSDPA/HSUPA will make the internet a completely mobile experience," Patterson said. ®

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