U.K. 3G plans on track, Hutchison says

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s plans to roll out 3G (third-generation) mobile voice and data services in the U.K. are on track for a launch in the second quarter of 2002, a company representative confirmed on Friday.

The delay of NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s launch in Japan of what is expected to be the first full commercial 3G service has caused some concern in the industry about whether other launches also will be held up. Hutchison last year formed Hutchison 3G UK Ltd., a joint-venture company with Canada-based Telesystems International Wireless Inc., and put in the winning bid for the largest 3G license in the U.K., according to a statement on Hutchison's Web site. Hutchison 3G UK plans to build a dedicated 3G network from the ground up.

The company has lined up financing for its network from equipment vendors Nokia Corp. and NEC Corp. and a consortium of banks, the Hutchison representative confirmed Friday.

In July last year, Hutchison formed a consortium for European 3G services with NTT DoCoMo and Netherlands-based KPN Mobile NV, which now own 20 percent and 15 percent stakes in the U.K. company, respectively.

Bidding for 3G licenses in the U.K. reached a total of US$35.43 billion. Bids in Germany's auction in August reached a staggering US$46.2 billion, and Hutchison subsequently pulled out of the three-way German consortium because it said the price was too high. The company still could become a virtual network operator in Europe by leasing capacity from a network owner.

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