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Verizon to launch 3G network by year's end

The network will be located in parts of New York and northern New Jersey, yet handsets still aren't available for the advanced network, the company says.

Verizon Wireless will launch its much-anticipated third-generation wireless network inside a 100-square-mile area of New York and northern New Jersey by the end of the year, the company said Wednesday.

see special report: Wake-up call Although Verizon says its network for one of the biggest cell phone markets in the nation is in place, one critical piece of the puzzle is missing.

Handsets that work on this third-generation, or 3G, network are still in the testing phase and are not yet commercially available, said Verizon spokeswoman Andrea Linsky.

She said the company is testing handsets from LG Infocomm that are similar to cell phones that work on a 3G network running in Korea. Other handsets being tested include those manufactured by Audiovox, Samsung Electronics and Ericsson. Linsky expects the handsets to be ready for sale in time for the fourth-quarter launch of Verizon's New York/New Jersey network.

Verizon has not yet revealed when it will launch 3G service in other U.S. cities.

Handset delays have stymied plans from carriers throughout the world hoping to offer 3G networks, which hold the promise of always-on connectivity, better quality voice calls, and the ability to send e-mails or surf the Web at broadband speeds.

Japan's NTT DoCoMo expected to launch a 3G network in May but pushed plans back to October. Other carriers have delayed launch plans until 2004--for some, even later.

Nokia, however, said in June that its 3G network phones will be shipped on time--by the end of the year.

Alan Reiter, an analyst with the market watcher publication Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing, said once 3G handsets arrive, a new batch of problems could crop up as a crush of users begin crowding the new advanced mobile telephone networks.

"You have to give these carriers their due," Reiter said. "But you can't truly test a handset on a network-wide basis until you have a network up and running. You can do all the testing in the lab, but until your network is up and communicating, you won't really know for sure."

Verizon is in a race with Sprint PCS to be the first in the United States to offer high-speed phone networks to the mass market.

Bruce Friedman, director of wireless consulting for Sprint eSolutions, said the carrier will have a 3G network in an unnamed pilot city by September, and then continue to offer it on a pilot program basis in six other cities by year's end. A full nationwide commercial launch will come by June 2002, Friedman said.

"Sprint is certainly in the game," he said.