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Nokia expects 3G takeoff in 2003

The company says higher-speed third-generation cell phone networks will take off "exponentially" in 2003, and Nokia wants to grab 35 percent of the market.

HANOVER, Germany--Nokia expects higher-speed third-generation cell phone networks to take off "exponentially" in 2003, and the company has set a goal of serving 35 percent of the customers who use those networks.

The company will begin trials of these 3G networks in the first half of 2002, and early customers will begin using them in the second half, said J.T. Bergqvist at a news conference at the CeBit trade show. To help 3G become a reality, Nokia has signed partnerships with Orange/France Telecom and 15 other telecommunications companies.

U.S. telecommunications company Sprint is racing to build 3G network services even as competitors delay their 3G plans. The technology is promised to be fast enough to send video clips, music and other content.

Nokia, with more than 700 million cell phone customers, has set a goal of claiming a 40 percent share of the cell phone handset market, said Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president of mobile phones at Nokia. Aggressive adoption of 3G and other technologies is one way the company hopes to achieve the goal.

Nokia unveiled a digital music player and four new cell phones to push the new technology.

The Nokia Music Player will play digital music encoded with the popular MP3 format or the comparatively unknown Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format, which allows music companies to protect copyrights, Vanjoki said. It also includes an FM radio.

For the cell phones, the new 3330 includes support for the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) standard for adding more sophisticated Internet services to cell phones. Vanjoki predicted the system would be popular with teenagers for playing games, uploading high scores to Internet sites and downloading animated screensavers.

While the 3330 uses version 1.1 of WAP, the new 6310 for corporate customers uses version 1.2.1, Vanjoki said. More significantly, it comes equipped with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology, Vanjoki said. Nokia expects to sell millions of GPRS phones this year, he added.

GPRS, an extension to existing cell phone standards, allows data transfer at 115 kilobytes per second. It's a stepping-stone on the way to 3G that's gaining in importance as 3G is delayed.

Nokia also unveiled the 8310 cell phone, which has a built-in FM radio and is designed for the fashion-conscious who feel compelled to select from the 169 combinations of faceplate colors.

And the new combination cell phone-handheld computer Nokia 9210, which will ship in the second quarter, has a keyboard, color screen, and Real Player software for streaming video or MP3 playback. It's an upgrade to the 9000.

In the future, see related story: Congressmen press for 3G wirelessNokia predicts a convergence of WAP and XHTML, a mobile gadget version of the HTML language that is the language used to construct and send Web pages. In June, Nokia will release "to anybody who wants it" an Internet browser that can use WAP and XHTML, Vanjoki said.

Also in the future, Nokia expects instant messaging for gadgets to move from the Short Messaging System (SMS) technology to a new standard called Multimedia Messaging System (MMS), Vanjoki said.

In a related announcement at CeBit, Symbian on Wednesday said it has released a smart-phone operating system for GPRS-enabled smart phones and communicators. The new operating system also supports WAP 1.2 and Bluetooth wireless technologies, the company said. Shipment is expected in the second half of this year.