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Nokia says next-generation phones on time

The Finnish company sticks by its original shipping dates for a next-generation wireless phone earmarked for the crucial North American market.

Nokia on Thursday stuck by its original shipping dates for a next-generation wireless phone earmarked for the crucial North American market.

In a statement released Thursday, the world's leader in handset market share said it would ship the mobile phones to the Americas by year's end, reiterating what it has said for months. Nokia spokeswoman Megan Matthews said European markets would get the phones sometime in the third quarter.

Nokia said it was trying to reassure a public that has grown skeptical of any claims about when the next generation of phone services might arrive in the United States and elsewhere. This year, carriers throughout the world, including NTT DoCoMo in Japan, have been delaying the introduction of the always-on, broadband Internet-capable cell phones for a variety of reasons, including a delay in the manufacture of handsets that will work on the new networks.

Nokia also unveiled Thursday the type of phone that will hit the U.S. market. The phone is the 8390 model, which among other things supports the newest version of WAP (wireless application protocol), a technology used to help cell phone users view Web pages.

The phone has all the trappings of what is considered the next generation of phones capable of broadband Net access and other features such as downloading software or music. But it also is capable of having data beamed into it using an infrared port, similar to the way a Palm handheld computer works, the Finnish wireless company announced.

The handsets are expected to work on new phone systems being built by VoiceStream Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Cingular. These systems are based on a standard known as GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications. The Nokia phones in question are designed to work on GPRS, or General Packet Radio Service. GPRS will serve as the new network that the three carriers are expected to upgrade to when offering the next generation of cell phones that can offer always-on mobile Internet access at broadband speeds.

But at least one analyst believes Nokia may be unable to meet its proposed shipment timeline.

Salomon Smith Barney wireless equipment analyst T.C. Robillard Jr. recently issued an investment advisory in which he predicted that Nokia may not meet its self-imposed shipping deadlines for both North America and Europe.

Robillard first predicted delays in March. He recast his opinion last week after learning that Nokia chose to use a rival's phone instead of its own to demonstrate the next-generation technology. He did not return a phone call for comment concerning Nokia's Thursday announcement.

Nokia said Robillard's concerns are unfounded. Matthews said the company demonstrated how its handsets work in a GPRS system at the CeBit trade show in Germany earlier this year. "We certainly have been testing and (demonstrating) and showing our own phones," Matthews said.

Nokia was also busy with several other announcements Thursday.

The company confirmed rumors of layoffs within its Internet infrastructure division, saying it plans to trim 1,000 workers.

Nokia also unveiled that it had reached a two-year deal to license and resell software from F5 Networks, a Seattle-based company that sells Internet traffic and content management software. Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.