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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 11:27 GMT
Video phones show slow take off
3G mobile phone
3G phones can handle video calls
Third-generation mobile network, 3, has attracted far fewer customers for its video services than it wanted.

Launched in March, the UK's first 3G operator was aiming for a million customers by the end of 2003, but only has 210,000.

A company spokesperson said it was "very happy" despite the figures, and blamed handset shortages and lack of competition for the shortfall.

3G technology lets users take, watch and send video clips on their phones.

Ugly and overrated?

The spokesperson said 3 was confident of meeting the target in 2004 and it had no plans to lower the goal.

The company added it needed competition from other networks to help boost demand and the 3G market.

NEC 3G phone
Many of the early 3G handsets have been a turn-off
Vodafone and Orange had plans to offer 3G services by the end of 2003, but delays have hit both networks.

To help drive take-up of 3G, 3 said it was planning to launch a pay-as-you-go service in the first half of 2004.

3 was the first operator in Europe to offer third-generation mobile technology on compatible handsets, allowing video services.

But many of the first mobile phones to come out which used the technology have been large and cumbersome, putting many buyers off.

In a recent readers' choice poll by T3, two early 3G models did not do well.

The prize of ugliest gadget went to Motorola's A830 mobile with the most over-rated prize given to NEC's e606.

But analysts say 2004 will see a increased demand for pocket-sized gadgets which will play video, and more handset makers will be joining the video phone market.

Hutchison Whampoa, who owns 3, has networks around the world with an estimated 660,000 customers, including a service in Hong Kong which launched this week.

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