BT's launch of first 3G service stalled

British Telecommunications PLC (BT) has been forced to delay the launch of what it had hoped would be the world's first commercial network using the 3G (third-generation) mobile telecommunication technology by at least three months due to a software fault with handsets from NEC, a company spokesman said Monday.

"Yes, we've decided to push back the launch of the 3G network until the end of summer or early autumn," said BT spokesman, Simon Gordon.

The launch of the 3G services in the Isle of Man through its wholly owned subsidiary, Manx Telecom Ltd., had been scheduled for May 31. A bug in the integrated software is causing the handsets, made by NEC, to crash, Gordon said.

"There is a problem that occurs between the base station and the handsets which NEC couldn't fix before the launch at the end of May," Gordon said.

Specifically, when a mobile phone user moves between base stations, the connection is automatically cut off. BT and NEC are working together to solve the problem as quickly as possible, Gordon said.

Last month, Japan's largest cellular telecommunication carrier, NTT DoCoMo Inc. pushed back the launch of its 3G services until October due to similar problems with the NEC technology. According to various published reports in the U.K., NEC dragged its feet in fixing the bug by the end of May because of intense pressure from DoCoMo, which is leaning on NEC to make sure the Japanese-based company wins in the competition to launch the first commercial 3G service. It is a charge that Gordon strongly denied.

"Those reports are not correct and there is no spat between BT and NEC," Gordon said.

When BT announced last week that it had, with Nokia Corp., successfully completed its first trial of 3G, the company was still insistent it was on schedule to launch its Isle of Man 3G services at the end of May. "We only found out just recently that the bug could not be fixed in time for that launch," Gordon said.

"We will still be the first company to launch 3G in Europe and possibly the first in the world to launch 3G," Gordon said.

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