3G the 'nearly' technology

If Korea can do it, why can't we?

If Korea can do it, why can't we?

It's been a big day for third-generation mobile telephony, but are we any closer to the Holy Grail of multimedia handsets and 'always-on' connections? Only a little it seems.

silicon.com reported from South Korea this morning on what is - arguably - the first 3G network roll out. Japan's NTT DoCoMo and then BT's Manx Telecom were tipped to be the first to pop the champagne corks earlier this month, but both network operators have had to delay until late summer.

The Korean success shouldn't be a massive surprise. Although the network in question is running a CDMA hybrid technology which doesn't quite fit the true definition of 3G, the country has made huge strides, with the number of broadband internet users - not just those with connections passing their homes - surpassing most other countries.

Meanwhile, NTT DoCoMo has extended its trials, which might just be counted as a gradual roll out of its 3G standard, now going by the name of FOMA.

In France, forget about time spans for 3G roll out - the news this week is of a government still trying to ensure it has more than two licence holders following its botched auction cum beauty contest process.

So South Koreans may have a reason to be optimistic, but for most of us, it is still case of reading about all the goodies ahead.

There isn't even likely to be any wholesale migration to 3G when it does become available. The mobile landscape will be more fragmented than it is today, in terms of what services are available and who's using them.

Before then, so-called 2.5G technologies such as GPRS - now available from BT Cellnet in the UK and later this week, from Vodafone - will satisfy many users.

Before we can appreciate a rich, varied smorgasbord of mobile offerings, the networks and more importantly the equipment providers, have to stop letting us down.

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