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Nokia Offering Dual-Mode Phone for 3G

Nokia has begun commercial deliveries of what it is calling the first dual-mode mobile phone, which will work with both GSM-based and WCDMA-based (wideband CDMA) networks.

The shipment is yet another step forward along the evolution to true 3G wireless networks cabable of transmitting large video, data and image files across a variety of air interfaces such as GSM, WCDMA, TDMA and the newer EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) interface.

The Finnish phone maker is calling the device "the first mobile phone in the market capable of seamless hand-overs between GSM and WCDMA systems in a dual-mode network."

The Nokia 6650 mobile phone is slated to be marketed to wireless carriers in Europe and Asia, where 3G networks are more advanced than other global markets such as North America. But several carriers in both Europe and Asia have had to delay their rollout of upgraded networks at a time of severe market contraction in the wireless networking equipment sector.

Despite sluggish conditions in some sectors of the wireless industry, Nokia said it already has signed up customers and that the first operator shipments of its 6650 commercial release will be delivered to J-Phone and Mobilkom Austria during June.

Nokia also said it expects that during the second half of 2003, approximately 20 operators worldwide will introduce the WCDMA interface either as their main radio technology or as a complementary enhancement to their existing GSM network.

Nokia is positioning itself for the next-generation of technology, while trying to span the migration of analog-based 2G, 2.5G and wideband 3G wireless networks. The dual-mode phones operate with full 900 MHz and 1800 MHz GSM interfaces and packet-switched WCDMA networks.

The new Nokia phone will allow for subscribers to have global roaming capabilities on all GSM900/1800 networks globally as well as on WCDMA networks in Japan and Europe, the company said.

The new dual-mode phones are expected to offer high speed data services, capable of up to 384 kbps data rates with WCDMA, while also having access to "full coverage of the GSM900/1800 grid in a single terminal with proven dual system capabilities, tested for interoperability across the full range of functionality with the leading infrastructure vendors."

Nokia is not alone in the evolving market for 3G-based wireless handsets. Both NEC and Motorola are out with similar models. One feature in the Nokia 6650 is a built-in 640x480 digital video camera, which shoots 128x96 video, or at close to 10 frames of video per second.

But despite Nokia's commitment to the 3G networks, there are indications there may be serious financial troubles ahead, especially for European wireless carriers.

On May 21, MMO2 Plc, the UK's fourth leading mobile phone company, posted a huge loss, taking a huge write-down on charges from 3G licenses. MMO2 follows other European telecommunications companies Deutsche Telekom AG, France Telecom SA, Royal KPN NV, Telefonica SA and Sonera Oyj, which have the value of licenses they have committed to for 3G networks. European telecom companies alone have spent close to $100 billion on 3G licenses and network buildouts in the past few years, but have yet to realize any returns on those massive investments.