Sunday, June 10, 2001

Wireless providers slowing speed-up plans

Technology advances seen as still risky

By Bruce Meyerson
The Associated Press

        NEW YORK — After all the glitches and delays overseas with cool new technologies for mobile phones, maybe the kinks will be worked out in time for a smooth launch in the United States. But so far it doesn't look very promising.

        Cingular Wireless, which had been planning to roll out the first of the new services in June, has now postponed its U.S. introduction until late summer. Meanwhile, phone makers and wireless carriers, which normally love to show off their latest and greatest handsets well in advance, have paraded precious few in public.

        Nevertheless, most of the top wireless players remain determined — and on schedule, they insist — to introduce advanced wireless services by year's end.

        Their main goal is to provide speedier connections for mobile phones so they can receive e-mail and Web content faster, or even be hooked up as a wireless computer modem. The first versions of these next-generation services promise to provide download speeds five times faster than current wireless networks and phones.

        The pressure to roll out these services as soon as possible is obvious: get subscribers to use more and more wireless minutes to offset the huge investment cellular companies have made to ex pand and upgrade their networks.

        Perhaps that's why Cingular held out so long before scrapping plans to grab an early lead in this country with the introduction of next-generation services in California and Nevada.

        Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS and AT&T Wireless have been more sketchy about their plans, but all three maintain they'll launch next-generation services during the second half of 2001.

        Meanwhile, only AT&T has committed to any specific handsets, two new models from Ericsson, for its high-speed service. In fact, it wasn't clear which handset Cingular hoped to use for its impending launch until two weeks ago, when Motorola said its Timeport P7389i would be featured in the now-aborted rollout.

        In South Korea, more than 200,000 next-generation handsets made by Samsung have been sold since last fall, when a major carrier began offering speedier wireless connections.

        “Everyone says, "We don't know if it works.' Well it works, it's on the network now. South Korea Telecom launched it ... All this stuff exists,” said Pete Skarzynski, senior vice president for Samsung Telecommunications America, which has also begun selling a handset in Germany.


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