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Weekend: BT wavers on 3G

Yet more doom and gloom for future phones

The Financial Times published excerpts this week from a report it claims to have seen in which BT warns that 3G (third generation) telephony may not improve its existing services and carries a financial risk.

"We cannot give you any assurance that we will make an economic return from our investments in UMTS [3G] licences and networks nor as to the timing of doing so," allegedly said the draft report.

BT is not willing to comment on the draft report, a prospectus that lists certain particulars for O2, its new mobile division, a final copy of which is due for release in a the next few weeks.

"We have no comment to make," said a spokesman at BT. "This is an unauthorised report and we have nothing to say." When asked whether BT wished to deny the alleged contents of the report, BT repeated its refusal to comment.

The report allegedly says that the development of technology may take longer than initially anticipated, and once developed it may not even be much of an improvement on existing technology. This includes GPRS (general packet radio service) which has come on leaps and bounds since its inception. GPRS is now theoretically capable of shifting the amounts of data only 3G systems were supposed to be capable of.

This is a far more gloomy warning of the risks involved with 3G than those identified by mobile phone operator Orange in its report back in February.

"[Orange's] results of operation could be materially adversely affected if its suppliers fail to provide it with adequate equipment," said the Orange report.

Intel chief and president Craig Barratt has also warned that mobile firms have overblown expectations of 3G technologies and predicts many users will be disappointed with the new service.

Barratt believes GPRS will be the next generation of mobile technology to be widely deployed, not 3G.

And there is evidence that Barratt's predictions could come true. In South Korea the country's major carriers have delayed deployment of 3G, favouring instead the use of GPRS-like services on existing 2G networks.

But though the promises of the functions and capabilities of 3G may have been over-hyped, some of the concept designs for 3G-enabled devices may make up for these let-downs.

Trium's next-generation kit is a state-of-the-art 3G bracelet that allows you to surf the net, chat with your friends over the built-in earpiece and microphone, and take a few snaps with the teeny built-in camera.


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