Swiss incumbent telco Swisscom said at the launch of its GPRS service that it does not expect to see useable 3G mobile services until 2004. Although its network will be in place during 2002, the company says the right kind of handsets will not be available for another two years.
The problem is backwards compatibility. The 3G phones currently available in Japan do not work with existing 2G networks. Dual-mode phones are expected to launch at the end of this year, but Swisscom believes people will demand phones that support GSM, GPRS and 3G. These will take longer to reach the market.
Swisscom Mobile CEO Carsten Schloter said, At the moment people are saying we can expect these handsets to be there in the third quarter of 2003. I’d say it will be 2004 at the earliest.
Mr Schloter is unlikely to be too upset by this situation. Swisscom paid just $30 million for its 3G license – less than 1% of the fees paid by mobile operators in Germany and the UK.