Sonera sets September date for 3G launch

Sonera of Helsinki will launch its commercial 3G (third-generation) mobile-phone service on Sept. 26 with handset maker Nokia as its primary partner.

The commercial launch of the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) service in September will at first be limited to "key areas," with Nokia delivering a "significant part" of Sonera's 3G network, the company said in a statement late FridayIn January, the Finnish telecommunication operator began the start of its UMTS services in Finland's four largest cities: the Helsinki metropolitan area, Oulu, Tampere and Turku.

At the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, Nokia announced that its 3G mobile phone service would launch on Sept. 26, but at the time declined to name its partners for launching the service.

Nokia was still coy when asked about the details of its 3G launch. "Sonera was the first of our partners to announce plans for Sept. 26. We will be working with a number of other operators as well, but we haven't disclosed who those will be, as it is up to those partners to make announcements," said Nokia spokesman Pekka Isosomppi on Monday.

He declined to comment on whether Nokia's initial launch of 3G services and products will be confined to Finland. "We have not disclosed that, but certainly September and October will be important for us in terms of gearing up with 3G," Isosomppi said.

Sonera's UMTS network is utilizing its existing GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network. Its equipment is supplied by Nokia as well as Sweden's L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Sonera said. In January, Sonera estimated that it will spend about £500 million (US$438 million) on its 3G network between 2000 and 2009.

Other companies looking to launch 3G networks, products and services in the third quarter are Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd. and Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola Inc., though they have not pinpointed specific dates.

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