3G: “The Networks are Ready, but the Phones Aren’t”

One of the many things coming out of the 3GSM Summit is the conflict between mobile network operators like Vodafone and T-Mobile and handset manufacturers: the network operators have made the networks, but the phones aren’t good enough to entice users to subscribe.

Mobile phone operators spent billions of euros on licenses to run 3G networks and are understandably concerned that they have not been able to make full use of new revenue opportunities.

At the 3GSM summit in Cannes, Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone criticised existing phones for being bulky, possessing poor battery life and featuring unsatisfactory heat dissipation. He added “The experience today is unacceptable to our customers.”

Part of the problem is related to poor coverage in Europe. Not only does this mean that services are simply unavailable in areas, but it also requires that the phones run in dual 2G/3G mode, thus consuming far more power – hence the heat and battery problems not generally witnessed in Japan which has far better coverage. Since it is projected that, even by 2008, only 75% of all phones will be 3G, dual mode issues are expected to be around for a while.

Some see Sarin’s comments as a little dig at Nokia, with whom Vodafone have had a stormy relationship over the years, but with Nokia expected to have a strong 3G handset offering by the end of 2004, things seemed to have thawed between Sarin and Nokia’s CEO Jorma Ollila.

The Nokia/Vodafone Lovefest

Sarin: GSM stands for “God Send Mobiles”

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?