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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 10:48 GMT
Consumers confused by new phones
Close-up of Nokia 6630 screen, Nokia
3G phones could confuse many consumers, warns a survey
Few British consumers are considering upgrading to third generation (3G) services, reveals a survey.

Only 4% of those questioned said they were considering swapping their existing mobile for a new 3G handset.

The research is bad news for phone firms who are stepping up competition for 3G converts as they finish building networks to support the new services.

The consumers questioned said that the bewildering number of features on 3G handsets was putting them off.

Choice cuts

Competition to get people moving on to 3G networks will escalate in the next 12 months as almost all of the UK's operators have now launched their new networks.

The 3 network launched in 2003, consumer services from Vodafone and Orange followed in 2004 and O2 unveiled its network in early January. Only the UK's T-Mobile has yet to launch.

But the survey shows that consumers may resist swapping their existing phone for a 3G one because of widespread confusion about the bewildering number of ways to pay for phones and the vast array of features most have onboard.

"The concern is that if they do not make it simple and less frightening for consumers it may impact the growth of 3G," said John Hughes, co-founder of Netonomy which commissioned the survey.

The survey's findings contradict bullish predictions from Swedish-Japanese moble phone maker Sony Ericsson.

'Increasingly important'

It expects the number of 3G handsets, capable of live video calls, sold in 2005 to double from 2004 to around 10% of all phones sold, the firm said on Tuesday. "3G will... become increasingly important as the year progresses," Sony Ericsson Chief Executive Miles Flinet said in a statement.

The survey found that 71% of those questioned thought that mobile services were getting more complicated.

Most of those who responded to the survey, 59%, said they thought that 3G phones would be even more complicated to configure and pay for.

Mr Hughes said that technological advances that should make life easier for consumers seemed to be making things more complex.

He said many operators did a bad job of guiding customers through the many options available to them.

Without good guidance consumers could find themselves trying to sign up for services not supported by their current handset or even signing up for the same service twice.

Mr Hughes said operators had to work hard to help consumers navigate through the complexities.

"In the long run the only sustainable relationship a business has is its relationship with customers," he said.

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