Nokia phones incompatible with new U.S. mobile networks

Mobile phones from Nokia Corp. sold in the U.S. and Canada since as early as 1997 could be rendered useless when operators launch new cdma2000 (code division multiple access) 1x networks.

Nokia is urging network operators to update their networks before launch so the handsets will still work. Alternatively, each individual handset needs to be reprogrammed, Nokia said. Affected are phones in the popular 2100, 5100 and 6100 model series.

"It is a software glitch that affects the synchronization channel of the phone, which is used when the phone registers with the network. When the phones were designed, the specifications of the cdma2000 1x standard weren't done yet, and (as such) we didn't take into account the synchronization-channel issue," said Keith Nowak, a spokesman for Nokia in the U.S.

"There is a software patch that needs to go into the network. Reprogramming all phones, where customers would have to bring the handset into the store, is not a viable solution," he said.

Several U.S. mobile phone operators, including Verizon Wireless Inc., plan to rollout cdma2000 1x networks later this year.

The upgraded mobile networks will allow faster data transmissions and are considered a step towards full 3G (third generation) services, which offer even faster wireless data transfer rates. Subscribers interested in these new services will need to buy a new handset. But subscribers who don't need to use the new services should be able to continue using their old handsets with the new networks and at least be able to continue using their phones.

"We are aware of the issue and will work with Nokia to ensure that our customers have a quality handset and get a quality service," said Brenda Raney, spokeswoman for Verizon, one of the largest mobile operators in the U.S.

Nokia's Nowak said the glitch is "not a big deal" and part of the "normal course of business". He couldn't specify how many phones are affected, saying only that "it's a lot of phones" and assuring that all handsets Nokia is shipping now are unaffected.

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