Nokia tests 3G W-CDMA call over commercial system

Nokia Corp., the world’s largest mobile handset manufacturer, announced on Friday that it has completed what it called the world’s first 3G (third-generation) W-CDMA (wideband code-division multiple access) voice call over a commercial 3GPP (third generation partnership project) standard network.

“What makes this a ‘first’ is that it was a complete end-to-end call using the 3G mobile technology, and beta models were not used,” said Nokia spokeswoman Riita Mard.

The W-CDMA call was made between Nokia laboratories in Oulu and Salo, Finland on Friday by representatives of Finnish telecommunication operator Sonera Corp. and Finnish mobile service provider Radiolinja Oy AB, Mard confirmed.

Specifically, the voice call was made over a commercial network based on the latest 3GPP International Standards, Mard said. 3GPP is the main group coordinating the technical standards for current and 3G wireless services. Mard could not comment on when Nokia was expecting to complete a successful test of a data call.

Nokia tested its first commercial 3G terminal in both of its modes, W-CDMA and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), Mard said. “The terminals are handheld in size,” Mard said, though she was unable to comment on the actual dimensions of the terminal.

To give some idea of the 3G terminals that are currently being tested, the 3G video conferencing handset that NTT DoCoMo Inc. sent to 1,200 trial users at the end of June has been noted for its size, thickness and heft. The P2101V, a clamshell-shaped device manufactured by Matsushita Communication Industrial Co. Ltd., weighs 150 grams (most second-generation handsets are about 100 grams) and is 35 millimeters thick (a centimeter thicker than Matsushita’s P503i second generation telephone for DoCoMo), according to one tester.

Regardless of how the new 3G phones look, Nokia feels that it is on track to deliver 3G handsets in 2002, and that full 3G network services will soon follow. “We believe that a number of major operators will begin commercial services during the second half of 2002,” Mard said.

“Basically, Nokia is just shouting about it – that they’ve made the first end-to-end call. But it does mean that the network is up and running and, looking at what has been happening in the industry, it is a milestone,” said International Data Corp. (IDC) analyst Paolo Pescatore.

Nokia’s competitors such as Alcatel SA, Siemens AG and Vodafone Group PLC could be expected to make similar announcements soon, Pescatore said.

Nokia has previously tested W-CDMA calls and data transmission on experimental platforms, including a May trial of its 3G IP (Internet Protocol) network based on standard IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) application servers. That test was done in conjunction with British Telecommunications PLC (BT).

In April, Vodafone announced that it had made what it called the first 3G mobile phone call from a real network in the U.K., touting the “live voice call” as a major milestone toward rolling out 3G services, but that call was not a 3G end-to-end call.

Additionally, NTT DoCoMo said in April that it will launch a trial W-CDMA 3G service beginning May 30 for 4,000 customers in Tokyo, but also announced it was delaying the commercial launch of its 3G service by five months until October of this year.

“In Finland (where the Nokia 3G call took place), they were the first pioneers to award 3G licenses, so its not surprising this latest development occurred there. But this (announcement of a successful 3G trial) is a general trend and now the operators can look towards getting a full 3G network up and running,” Pescatore said.

The general consensus in the industry is that 3G mobile voice and data services are on track for a launch in parts of Europe and Asia during the second quarter of 2002. Though Nokia’s announcement on Friday backed up that estimate, IDC’s Pescatore remained somewhat skeptical.

“Whether a 3G network launch happens in the second quarter of 2002 remains to be seen. Though (Nokia’s 3G W-CDMA voice trial) is an important milestone, it is key that before 3G is rolled out, the GSM/GPRS (global system for mobile communications/general packet radio service) networks and services are up and running as it will serve as the gateway and major stepping stone for 3G,” Pescatore said.

To date, there is still only one GPRS handset on sale in Europe, the Motorola Inc. Timeport 260, Pescatore said.

Nokia in Espoo, Finland is at

. Sonera, in Helsinki can be reached at

. Radiolinja, in Espoo, Finland is at

. More information about the 3GPP can be found online at