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Mixed Signals On 3G Phones
Posted: 24-Sep-2001 [Source: Far Eastern Economic Review]

[FOMA monitors provide some feedback on the service prior to its launch in Tokyo October 1.]

by Charles Bickers, Tokyo -- "It's here. After years of hype surrounding third-generation wireless phone systems, real people are using real 3G phones in Tokyo. The world's first 3G service, known as Foma, which stands for Freedom of Multimedia Access, will be launched by telecoms operator NTT DoCoMo in earnest on October 1.

"But since May, Tomoaki Kabe, a self-confessed cellphone e-mail and Internet junkie, has been one of the 4,500 monitors using Foma on a DoCoMo-subsidized trial. With Foma, Kabe has been able to access DoCoMo's popular mobile Internet service, i-mode, more quickly, and read 5,000 characters' worth of e-mail in each message. "That's way better than the 400 characters on my current phone," says the Tokyo-based technology consultant.

"But 3G's promoters promised far more than longer e-mail messages on the phones. So what's the trial verdict? Bearing in mind that for the first year, service is limited to Tokyo, expanding nationwide only by well into 2002, early users say that if DoCoMo irons out the hardware snags, simplifies billing and lowers the cost of data downloads, Foma will be good, but by no means earth-shattering.

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