26 September 2002 Mobilkom, Austria’s biggest mobile network operator, yesterday won the race to launch Europe’s first national third-generation (3G) wireless network.
The low-key launch was hit by a shortage of 3G handsets, which meant that Mobilkom could not offer the new service to ordinary consumers. But the embattled 3G sector will take heart merely from the reaching of this symbolic milestone.
“Contrary to what the sceptics might say, 3G is happening and it is here today,” said Anders Runevad, vice president of business management and sales at Ericsson Networks, one of Mobilkom’s technology suppliers.
Mobilkom’s is the first national 3G network to go ‘live’ in Europe – only test networks have been launched in the Isle of Man and Monaco – and 3G services are shortly due to be launched by Hutchison in the UK and Sonera in Finland.
The only other operational broadband 3G network in the world is NTT DoCoMo’s in Japan. Networks complying with interim 3G standards – but not offering the capacity or broadband capabilities of DoCoMo’s or Mobilkom’s systems – are being rolled out in the US and elsewhere in Asia.
Mobilkom’s 3G network, supplied by Ericsson of Sweden and Nortel of Canada, is currently available in 11 Austrian cities and covers about a quarter of the country’s population. The operator says it has so far invested about €72 million in the network. By 2010, the operator plans to have spent between €600 million and €700 million on the system.
Mobilkom’s exclusive content includes video news feeds from Reuters and near-live video clips from the Austrian football league.
Separately, Nokia, the Finnish mobile phone maker, today unveiled its first 3G handset at a press conference in Helsinki. The new ‘6650’ colour device will be compatible with 2G as well as 3G networks. It will not be commercially available until the first half of 2003, however.