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UK may get 3G in 2002

NTT DoCoMo confirms that it is still on track to launch third-generation mobile networks in the second half of next year, with European partner Hutchison 3G

Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo has announced that it is confident that its 3G services will be up and running in the UK before the end of next year.

Speaking with foreign reporters on Tuesday, Keiji Tachikawa -- NTT DoCoMo's president -- said that it would offer services in Britain in partnership with Hutchison 3G. "Hutchison 3G will be our top batter for services in Europe," he claimed.

NTT DoCoMo, which operates the highly successful i-mode service in Japan, owns a 20 percent stake in Hutchison 3G -- one of the five companies to win a 3G licence in last year's auction.

Hutchison 3G told ZDNet News on Wednesday that it was still on track to launch a 3G service in mid-2002. "Obviously, our 3G network will only be launched when it's ready, but the plan for the last 18 months has been to launch 3G in the second half of 2002, and that's still very much our intention," a spokesman said.

On Monday NTT DoCoMo launched the world's first 3G network, in Tokyo. It is planning to spread its operations to cover several other major Japanese cities by early next year. "We've been learning a lot from NTT DoCoMo. They've been solving a number of problems on the way to launching their 3G services," said the Hutchison 3G spokesman.

With the mobile industry suffering badly from the general slump in the technology sector, many analysts have a pessimistic view of 3G, and the large sums of money spent by network operators acquiring licences. Some have suggested that -- as the only one of the five 3G licence-holders not to operate any existing mobile services -- Hutchison 3G is most likely to struggle.

Hutchison 3G dismisses these fears, pointing out that unlike its rivals it can concentrate all its efforts on its 3G operations. Succeeding in its aim to be the first 3G operator to launch services in the UK will probably help it to build up a strong customer base. Owning the rights to provide Premier League football content to mobile phones and wireless devices, a deal it signed back in June, could also help attract users.

See the Mobile Technology News Section for full coverage.

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