Don't expect 3G until 2004

So says ex-Orange boss. But while he believes the money spent on 3G will eventually prove worthwhile the chairman of Sony is not so sure

The former head of mobile network operator Orange claimed this week that European third-generation (3G) networks will not be ready until at least 2004.

Hans Snook, who stepped down from the top job at Orange after it was floated on the London Stock Exchange, warned that 3G rollout would be almost two years later than previously expected. However, he insisted that mobile operators would make money from third-generation networks and denied that too much money had been spent securing 3G licences in countries such as the UK and Germany.

"The price operators have paid for third-generation licences will ultimately be seen as conservative once the true potential of these networks is realised," said Snook, speaking at the Accenture Global Communications Forum in Miami Beach, America.

However, Snook warned that European consumers would not be able to access a 3G network until 2004 -- almost two years later than was once promised by mobile companies. Earlier this year an Intel executive said that the earliest 3G-compatible devices would be available by the end of 2001.

Orange was one of five companies to win a 3G licence in the UK. The British government received over £22bn from its 3G auction, while the German 3G auction raised the equivalent of £28bn. Many telecoms analysts believe that too much was paid for these licences, and that mobile companies will struggle to recoup their investments.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Sony has claimed that 3G phones will not be an immediate hit. Speaking to French newspaper Les Echos Nobuyuki Idei claimed that many users would be happy with GSM and GPRS phones, at least in the near future.

Unlike today's GSM phones, 3G devices will give users a fast and continuous connection to the Internet. In theory, this will turn the mobile phone into a personal handheld computer, capable of video-conferencing and rapid downloading from the Web.

Take me to the ZDNet Road to 3G News Special.

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