Orange sees 3G as just extra capacity

Amid the hype surrounding the kinds of services that will be offered over 3G (third-generation) mobile telecommunication networks, Orange SA has a more prosaic view: it's nothing more than extra network capacity.

"For us, UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) is supplementary spectrum, to be deployed in areas where our network is saturated. We don't see it as something specific and discontinuous, we see it as a continuation of what is already there," said Jean-François Pontal, chief executive officer (CEO) of Orange, which is owned by France Télécom SA.

Just as the company has added capacity to "hot spots" in the coverage of its 900MHz GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) network by adding transmitters operating at 1800MHz, it will be able to extend capacity again using spectrum attributed to UMTS -- spectrum for which the group has paid several billion dollars over the past year.

However, such capacity enhancements will not be available in the short term. The company does not expect to begin commercial tests of its UMTS network until "the second half of 2002," said Didier Quillot, CEO of Orange France.

Access to the enhanced capacity depends on the availability of terminals. "Single-mode UMTS terminals will certainly exist before the end of the year," Quillot said, but Orange intends to await the launch of dual-mode GSM-UMTS terminals. "The real start will be 2003," he said.

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