Vodafone, Nortel to trial 3G in London

Vodafone and Nortel Networks will conduct a trial of W-CDMA (wideband code division multiple access) third-generation (3G) wireless radio and IP (Internet Protocol) technologies in the UK.

The trial will take place in London beginning in the first quarter of next year.

Among the devices to be tested is a mobile phone with a built-in camera and video screen using MPEG-4 (Moving Pictures Expert Group, Layer 4) technology, capable of transmitting and receiving data at speeds of up to 64K bits per second (bps). Trial participants will be able to conduct videoconferences or view streaming content from the Internet, the company said.

"The screen is about half the size of a business card," a spokesman for Nortel, who declined to be named, said. Although specifics were not available about the refresh rate, "it has the look and feel of 30 frames per second," he said.

The trial will also include lightweight, pocket-sized voice terminals, wireless modems, and a mobile data device capable of transmitting data at up to 384K bps. That device is still in prototype form and is thus quite large, but will eventually be shrunk down to the size of a handheld PC, the Nortel spokesman said.

All the devices used in the trial are Panasonic brand, he said.

The full roll-out is subject to 3G licensing and technology. The auctioning of the 3G licenses by the government will begin in March, and Vodafone has made clear its intention to win one, said a Vodafone spokeswoman, who also asked not to be identified. 3G technology will probably not be available for widespread use in the UK until 2002, she said.

In addition to the deal with Vodafone, Nortel has announced that it will also be holding 3G trials with British Telecommunications, France Telecom and the North American GSM Alliance, a trade group. Vodafone is conducting other trials of 3G technology with Ericsson.