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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 12:50 GMT
Brussels okays 3G link-ups
SG user in Finland
Firms need to cooperate if 3G is to catch on
The European Commission has ruled that big telecoms firms can join forces to develop third-generation (3G) mobile phone systems without fear of being prosecuted for anti-competitive behaviour.

This so-called "anti-trust protection" is seen as vital if companies such as Siemens and Sony are to afford the effort of developing technology for 3G, a high-speed service that will allow users to download video or connect to the web.

As the mobile telecoms market has stumbled in recent months, mobile handset manufacturers and network operators have increasingly sought ways of sharing the enormous costs of rolling out 3G services.

The arrangement proposed by Brussels will allow the firms to access other manufacturers' patents when creating new products, without breaching EU rules.

3G steps up a gear

A group of firms, calling themselves the 3G Patent Platform Partnership, applied to the Commission in July for anti-trust protection.

The partnership groups together firms from all parts of the industry, including manufacturers Alcatel, Samsung and Siemens, and operators such as Telecom Italia, Sonera and France Telecom.

The Commission said it was certain that any likely co-operation would do little to restrict competition on the market.

It noted that most of the very biggest manufacturers and operators - Nokia, for example, or Vodafone - were not included in the partnership.

It also conceded that such link-ups were the only way to ensure that 3G technology is rolled out quickly around Europe.

So far, 3G services only exist in Japan and South Korea, and are being trialled tentatively around Europe.

Many firms fear that they were over-optimistic in their initial assessment of the speed with which 3G would be embraced by the market.

See also:

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