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3GSM Mobile carriers risk been leapfrogged by new entrants unless they work together to speed up the development of technologies such as mobile payments, according to Vodafone chief exec Arun Sarin.

"It takes us too long to deliver a new service. We have been talking about things like mobile payments for years...it's time to start delivering," he said during a keynote presentation at the 3GSM Congress in Barcelona this week. Sarin added that next-generation telecoms systems, such as 4G, are still going through standards bodies, while technology alternatives such as WiMax are commercially available.

Sarin said WiMax technology, which can reach distances of up to 50km, had its appeal but downplayed the competitive challenge it posed to operators of 3G networks, such as Vodafone, by describing the technology as "not ready for prime time".

Other mobile carriers are taking a different line - embracing WiMax rather than treating it as a potential business risk. Sprint Nextel, for example, recently invested $1bn in WiMax network development in association with Motorola, Nokia, and Intel. The system involves the development of multimode CDMA and WiMax handsets by Motorola.

Andy McKinnon, a WiMax marketing exec at Motorola, said WiMax allowed operators to have one infrastructure to deliver both fixed and mobile networks. McKinnon said the technology allows mobile operators to compete with fixed line players or fixed line telcos to offer mobile services. "WiMax complements - rather than competes with 3G," he added. ®

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