Motorola unveils its first 3G phone

The US phone manufacturer gives the mobile industry a boost by showing off a fully functional and operational 3G device. All it needs now is a network

US mobile manufacturer Motorola unveiled its first commercial 3G handset on Thursday, saying the device will go on sale in Britain in the second half of 2002.

The Motorola A820 provides the functionality that 3G mobile operators need to offer users if 3G is to be a success. With its high-resolution colour screen, users will be able to surf the Internet at high speeds and view movie clips. They will also be able to videoconference, thanks to the built-in video camera.

The silver-coloured device also supports WCDMA -- which means that the phone will also work in the US -- and GSM, meaning that it will work on existing mobile phone networks throughout Europe -- although not at speeds high enough to take advantage of its graphics and video features.

Thursday's announcement is significant because the A820 is a working product, not just a concept device. "We can turn this phone on and use it today," said a Motorola spokesman "We're really proud of the A820, and the fact that we've produced a working 3G phone." NEC is the only other company with production 3G handsets in commercial use; its handsets have been used in tests on the Isle of Man.

Click here to see a picture of the A820.

Motorola isn't giving any indication as to how much a consumer might have to pay for an A820. "I wouldn't even guess at a price," said the Motorola spokesman, who added that operators would have to decide whether or not to subsidise the phone.

The A820 is scheduled to hit the shops in the second half of 2002, but not before the UK's 3G networks are actually functional. "That would never happen, we're not that stupid," insisted the Motorola spokesman.

Hutchison 3G, which Motorola has worked closely with on some 3G projects, is committed to launching its 3G network in the second half of 2002. Some in the industry are quietly predicting that its service will launch in September.

Some industry experts have warned that 3G could be delayed because of a lack of handsets. The appearance of the A820 makes it harder for any operators to use this particular excuse in the future.


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