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Handset glitch redux for NTT DoCoMo

The Japanese wireless telephone service giant announces plans to fix 100,000 of the 800,000 Digital Mova P503i Hyper handsets it has sold since January.

Handset glitches have struck NTT DoCoMo once again.

On Tuesday, the Japanese wireless telephone service giant announced plans to fix 100,000 of the 800,000 Digital Mova P503i Hyper handsets it has sold since January. The company said a "timing" problem makes some of the phones unable to receive calls, e-mails or pages in certain areas of the country.

The company has also decided to stop selling these handsets, made by Panasonic, until at least July 23. NTT said owners of the broken phones will be notified starting July 17 about how to get the phones back to working order. see special report: Wake-up call

The glitch is yet another problem for NTT DoCoMo on its way to launching the next generation of mobile telephone service that promises always-on connectivity at broadband speeds. NTT was expected to be the first in the world to offer the so-called 3G service in May, but problems forced it to delay offering it until October.

In May, NTT DoCoMo had to recall hundreds of thousands of phones made by Sony. In February, the company recalled 230,000 phones made by Matsushita.

NTT isn't alone experiencing problems with the handsets this year. Nokia is still working to fix a problem with possibly millions of phones in the United States, which won't work when American carriers upgrade their networks at the end of the year.

Blame the companies and the carriers themselves for the problems as they rush untested phones to market, hoping to be the first to offer the next generation of phone service, analysts say.

"The vendors and their operators have gotten themselves into a hysteria over being first to market," said Herschel Shosteck, president of the Shosteck Group. "Vendors and operators are under so much pressure to deliver that these problems are inevitable."

He also said that despite the number of recalled phones of late, glitches are a normal part of the path to any new technology. The industry veteran remembers that in 1984, nearly a third of one particular phone Motorola sent to market didn't work. A faulty soldering machine was blamed.

"This is not out of the ordinary," Shosteck said.