Sonera, the Finnish network operator, has confirmed that it will launch a token 3G service on 26th September 2002.
The services, which use MMS and mobile Java technology, will operate primarily over GSM and GPRS network infrastructure, although limited UMTS coverage will be available in Helsinki Tampere, Turku and Oulu. Sonera cited handset availability and the unforseen technological challenge of constructing a UMTS network as the primary reasons for its inability to deploy a more comprehensive service. The company has been testing UMTS services since 1st January 2002, but now believes full commercial services will not be viable until 2003 and mass market adoption will be delayed until 2004 or 2005.
“Sonera’s strength has always been its ability to provide its customers with the most advanced services and the latest technology. In spite of the delay and slower overall start in UMTS technology deployment globally, we continue to be in the vanguard of the development of next generation services. The services that we will launch in September will be the first step, after which we can continue with the development work. These services represent an important milestone on our way from the second generation of mobile communications to the third one,” said Anni Vepsäläinen, Executive Vice President responsible for Sonera’s 3G mobile communications project.
It has been excruciating to follow recent press coverage of 3G license holders in Europe. Sonera, one of the original bulls of the 3G market, has much to answer for. The operator has had nearly a year of trials and over two years in which to put the necessary arrangements in place for a smooth, showcase launch. It does not reflect well on the industry as a whole when a formerly pioneering operator cannot launch a new technology in a country which is home to some of the world’s leading telecommunications engineers.
Small consolation may be on offer if Sonera shows that it can deliver 3G-style services over existing infrastructure. This may spur other operators to press ahead with their wireless data plans prior to launching UMTS networks. All eyes are now on Hutchison, which is sticking to an October 2002 timetable for commercial launch in the UK.
Originally published by PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence, the subscription-based analysis and insight platform founded by Marek Pawlowski.