3G concept devices: Breathtaking but two years off

Manufacturers have been thrilling the CeBIT crowds with their ideas for futuristic 3G kit. Don't expect to see any of it in your local Dixons any time soon though

Consumer electronics manufacturers have been drawing big crowds at CeBIT with displays of concept 3G devices. However, the bad news is that consumers won't get the chance to buy the things for at least another two years.

French mobile maker Sagem was showing off two 3G (third-generation) concept models. The first -- called Peeble -- was a multimedia gadget. Roughly 15cm by 7cm and shaped like a tear drop, Peeble boasts a colour screen which takes up about half the front. Below it are the controls, with which a user could play video clips and digital music files, or surf the Internet to download new material. Sagem anticipate that Peeble would be compatible with all the common multimedia file formats, such as MPEG4, MP3 and Real Player.

Click here to see a picture of Peeble

Next to Peeble was a second device called Geteo. This had a camera and a numerical keyboard, and could be used to make voice calls. It has two screens, letting a user access data while having a video conference, or operate two applications simultaneously.

Click here to see a picture of Geteo

Sagem created Peeble and Geteo to get feedback from customers as to what types of 3G device would be popular. However, the company has no plans to bring any 3G devices to market until 3G has rolled out.

"Sagem won't be making any 3G devices until the networks are built, so not until at least 2003," a spokesman explained.

Nokia predicted on Thursday that the mass rollout of commercial 3G networks would take place by early 2003. However, a BT executive claimed on Friday that revenues from 3G would not be much higher than today. If true, this would make it hard for network operators to recover the money they spend winning 3G licences, and could hamper 3G rollout.

At Panasonic·s stand, the consumer electronics manufacturer had demos of different applications that would be possible on 3G networks. This included a gaming phone, which would allow a user to compete wirelessly against a friend, and an in-car navigation system with a full colour map. Panasonic was also demonstrating how a 3G phone would be able to display a full Internet page on its small screen.

Trium, maker of the Mondo GPRS-enabled PDA, had also created a number of concept 3G devices. A two-piece Bluetooth-enabled communicator device was on display, which would allow the user to remove the video screen from the numerical keyboard. As a digital camera was attached to the keyboard, this -- as with Sagem's Geteo -- would make a video call easier.

Trium's concept 3G gadget for the 'urban man' is an MP3 player with built in GPS (global positioning system). With a constant high-speed link to the Internet, this device could download maps from the Web when a user is on the move.

Also on show at Trium's display of hypothetical devices was what it called a 'complete multimedia product'. This combined the functionality of a PDA and a phone, and would come complete with a digital video camera, a Bluetooth headset, and a foldable keyboard for data entry.

However, as Sagem explained, none of these exciting devices will come to market until 3G networks are built. At CeBIT 2001, 3G devices were kept in glass cages.

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