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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 08:43 GMT
3G goes live in the UK
Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry Secretary
Patricia Hewitt makes first public phone call on 3
The UK's first mainland third generation mobile network is officially opening for business, enabling callers to see each other and send video footage via their phones.

3G has been much-hyped, promising to take mobile phones to a new level with video and data.

But there have been massive delays in rolling out the networks and customers will not be able to get their hands on the phones until later this month, raising concerns over technical glitches and a shortage of handsets.

The date, 3 March 2003, is appropriate for the much-anticipated Hutchison 3 network, which is the new kid on the block for mobile services in the UK.

Ministerial phone call

The possibilities are immense - it has the potential to revolutionise the way we communicate
Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry Secretary

Hutchison has been taking pre-orders for handsets for several weeks.

From today, high street retailers such as Dixons and Carphone Warehouse will also begin to take orders for the 3 phones.

The technology comes at a price. 3G handsets cost around 400, though customers are being offered a 50% discount if they order before the end of March.

Hutchison has been advertising possible uses of its mobiles, including video conferencing and clips from football matches, for several months on TV.

It anticipates the service will go live in mid-March.

Having raked in billions for the sale of the 3G radio frequencies, the government backs the new technology.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt made the UK's first public mobile video call over 3's new service to Stephen Timms, the e-Commerce Minister.

"Today marks the arrival of 3G services in the UK. As the leading western market, the UK will be the pathfinder for this new technology," said Ms Hewitt.

"The possibilities are immense. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we communicate and I am delighted that UK businesses and consumers will be among the first to benefit from it," she added.

Italy, which is vying with the UK for rolling out 3G, saw its prime minister make the first Italian 3G call in December.

3 is not technically the first 3G network in the British Isles as rival mobile firm O2 is already operating its network on the Isle of Man.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"You won't actually get your handset for weeks"

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