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EDITIONS
Monday, 28 October, 2002, 13:05 GMT
Positive picture for future phones
Steam train on Isle of Man where 3G trials are taking place, BBC
Third-generation test networks are already in use
The future of third-generation mobile phone networks looks rosy, according to a new report.

Analysis by consultancy Thinking Box predicts that 3G will be a big success.

But it also warns that phone firms planning the futuristic services face a tough and lengthy task to ensure that their investment pays off.

It reveals that the majority of cash generated by customers of third-generation networks will come from very familiar sources.

Launch party


If it is properly launched, which is the problem, it is going to be very popular

Christophe Cauvy, Thinking Box
Many European phone firms have spent billions buying the right to run 3G networks.

In the UK alone, five firms have spent more than 22 billion buying 3G licences.

Many experts have expressed doubts that this money will be recouped quickly, if at all.

But research firm Thinking Box has slightly better news for phone firms preparing to launch 3G services.

"If it is properly launched, which is the problem, it is going to be very popular," said Christophe Cauvy, managing director of Thinking Box.

Mr Cauvy said 3G phones and networks were being treated, like many new technologies, as a luxury.

"Eventually though it will become irreplaceable and people will think, 'How did I live without it?'" he said.

The key to a successful launch was showing people how different it was to distinguished it from what we have now.

Giant leap

Most mobile phones are currently sitting on 2.5G networks that add extras, such as picture messaging, to more basic voice and text message services.

Text message, BBC
Could 3G doom SMS?
"To the general public the difference between 2.5G and 3G looks tiny," said Mr Cauvy. "But if 3G had launched as expected six months ago the jump would have been massive."

The only company that has announced plans to switch on its 3G network is Hutchison which is due to launch its '3' network later this year.

Other companies, such as 02, are running trial networks.

Mr Cauvy believes that the extra bandwidth and sophistication of 3G will win people over once they see how different it is to what they have now.

Novel services such as instant messaging and video telephony will help boost take-up, he said, and could kill off text messaging.

Operators must also ensure that the older services still exist and are no more expensive than on 2.5G networks.

Just talk

But despite the good news, Thinking Box believes that customers will not consume vast quantities of data.

In five years' time, operators can expect customers to spend only half as much more per month than they do now.

Thinking Box consumer research reveals that the vast majority of this spending, 62%, will be on voice calls rather than data services.

Multimedia messaging, web browsing and other novel services would form the remainder, said Mr Cauvy.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
25 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
15 May 01 | Business
27 Sep 02 | Business
23 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
05 Dec 01 | Business
14 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
12 Jul 00 | Business
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