Speedy 3G tests for Sprint, Lucent

Third-generation wireless telephone calling finally makes it to the United States--but for only one phone call.

Third-generation wireless telephone calling has finally made it to the United States--but for only one phone call.

Sprint and Lucent Technologies announced Tuesday that they have successfully made a telephone call at a speed of 2.4mbps (megabits per second), which is about 165 times faster than any other wireless network in the United States can deliver.

The successful test over a CDMA-based network comes four months after Lucent engineers teamed up with Qualcomm's brain trust to complete a similar call in a lab over the same type of high-speed network.

The speed at which Lucent and Sprint were testing the call is considered not just third generation, but the top end of the so-called 3G scale. It is so fast that it's bordering on the fourth generation of telephone service that is 10 years to come, according to analysts.

But what is tested in a lab does not always work when implemented for the consumer, according to analysts. "If (the results) weren't impressive, then I'd begin to worry," said Bryan Prohm, a wireless analyst for Dataquest.

Some analysts think the testing is the latest sign of a remarkable stretch U.S. carriers have made in recent months in the race to be the first to launch a third-generation network and its promise of an always-on, Internet accessible telephone capable of receiving calls and sending data at broadband speeds.

The honor of launching the first 3G network will likely belong to Japan's NTT DoCoMo, which is expected to open up its 3G network next month. But Sprint and Verizon are planning to launch a partial third-generation network later this year, with further expansion in 2002. Sprint PCS spokesman Dan Willinsky said the recently successful testing puts the company on track to introduce a network that can deliver phone service at 2.4mpbs by 2003.

In Europe and Asia, which were considered well ahead of their American compatriots, carriers have been announcing they will be delaying the launch of new 3G network services.