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Ericsson Shows 3G System, Is Unimpressed By WAP

Ericsson is has started demonstrating a third-generation (3G) WCDMA phone system, but says it is unimpressed with current demand for Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones and won't move into that market quickly.

At the CeBIT technology fair, the Swedish telecom company staged what it claims is the first live public demonstration of higher-bandwidth mobile technology. Specifically, it connected WCDMA pilot systems in Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. The technology can move packet-switched data as fast as 472Kbps, Ericsson claims.

Ericsson recently won the first-ever agreement for a commercial end-to-end 3G system. The Finnish 2G Ltd. has chosen Ericsson as the main supplier of a nationwide mobile network integrating GSM and 3G.

The faster broadband wireless technology isn't expected to be widely available in Europe for at least two years and isn't expected to be available in the U.S. for at least a year after that.

While 3G is a ways off, many companies are making WAP-related announcements now, but Ericsson says it isn't impressed. It says that it could produce WAP phones in big volumes if it wanted to but won't until the market grows.

"We could, but we don't want to," Ericsson President Kurt Hellstrom told a news conference at CeBIT.

The company is launching the R320 WAP phone in March, but is otherwise going slow. Ericsson has had the MC218 mobile communicator using WAP technology on the market since the autumn, but according to Hellstrom it has not been a big seller.

That should change later this year, Hellstrom said. "We think big volumes (of WAP phones) will be available during the third quarter."

More specifically, WAP will take off later this year as faster General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) systems, which can attain throughput of about 100Mbps, start being deployed.

"I don't think the products are the problem," Ericsson's head of strategic development Torbjorn Nilsson told Reuters. "The infrastructure and the services also have to be in place."