NTT Docomo has used the CeBit IT trade show preview prototype third-generation mobile phones.

Docomo plans to launch the world's first 3G service based on WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) in Tokyo at the end of May. What it showed at CeBit were, somewhat predictably, non-working models of terminals from NEC, Matsushita (aka Pioneer) and Toshiba.

Although not identical to the launch handsets, those on show this week were very similar, said a Docomo spokesman. The terminals look largely the same as the latest models the company has on the market for its second-generation network.

They contrast with the futuristic handset image models that Docomo and handset makers have shown in the past, and that are several years from production.

The fact that the company was unable to show working prototypes of the handsets illustrates the tight timeframe handset makers are working to in order to be ready for Docomo's Japanese launch.

In fact, only Pioneer and NEC will be ready in time for the launch.