Mobile giants flock to new 3G standard

5 Jan 2005

Some 26 European and Asian mobile phone firms – including Vodafone, DoCoMo and Siemens – have signed up to develop a new ‘Super 3G’ standard that could, as early as 2009, be capable of almost instantaneously transmitting high-resolution video.

Christened ‘Super 3G’ the technology is intended to be 10 times faster than today’s 3G services and is intended for phones and other mobile devices that feature high-resolution movie players and games, as well as related content services.

As well as boosting gaming and content services, the enhanced network could also pave the way for TV via mobile. The standard is expected to be ready by 2007, with a commercial launch due after 2009.

The creation of a new 3G standard may be hard to fathom for observers following the expenditure of billions in Europe alone by mobile operators vying to obtain 3G licences. Operators in the UK alone spent £22bn sterling to obtain licences. Across Europe it is envisaged that some €160bn was spent on the licences in 2001 and services are only emerging today. It is believed that the dash towards the expensive licences played a large part in the subsequent telecoms industry downturn, which was considered to be even worse than the highly profiled dotcom crash. Struggling operators lobbied the European Commission for a return of the €160bn licence fees, but their requests fell on deaf ears.

Existing 3G infrastructure, which cost operators additional billions in recent years, will need to be upgraded but not replaced. Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun estimated that Japan’s largest mobile firm NTT DoCoMo would have to spend a further £500k sterling to upgrade its network for Super 3G.

However, the advantages of mobile video could make the investment worthwhile, says research firm ARC Group, which estimated the market for mobile video will reach US$5.4bn by 2008, with some 250 million people using the service.

The 26 companies that signed up for the new standard include NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone Group, Cingular Wireless LLC, China Mobile Communications, NEC, Alcatel and Siemens.

By John Kennedy