According to reports, Vodafone, NEC, Siemens and Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo are among the 26 firms that have signed up to develop the new so-called 'Super 3G' standard, which would transmit data around 10 times faster than 3G's rate.
As well as improving gaming and content services, the souped-up network could also mean a real boost for television-via-mobile and may prompt demand for handsets with high-resolution LCD screens.
However, the standard is not expected to be ready until 2007, with initial commercial launches coming some time after 2009. It will not come cheap -- according to Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun, DoCoMo--Japan's largest mobile firm--would have to pay 100 billion yen (around $959 million) on upgrading its infrastructure alone for the arrival of the standard.
In Australia, the focus is heavily on 3G itself. Major players are preparing to deliver viable regular 3G services later this year after the competition regulator in late 2004 cleared deals between Optus-Vodafone and Telstra-Hutchison to share 3G mobile radio access network infrastructure.
The 3G picture gained additional clarity on Christmas Eve after Telstra signed a huge deal with Ericsson Australia to develop 3GSM mobile capacity for up to the next five years.
The agreement, signed late December, covers a number of contracts to develop Telstra's core GSM mobile network to 3G capability (3GSM) and to build additional Radio Access Network infrastructure.
Telstra Technology Innovation and Product Group managing director Ted Pretty said the contracts, worth more than AU$100 million over five years, were closely contested.
Pretty said Ericsson met Telstra's special requirements and timeframes to provide a 3GSM service that will automatically handoff to existing GSM services if a user moves away from the 3GSM coverage area and can manage two core networks operating on the one Radio Access Network.