KPN Fluffs 3G Demo

KPN Mobile and its partner NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) are to set up a W-CDMA base station in Amsterdam to give Europeans a taste of 3G. However, KPN Mobile seems unaware of the ingredients.

The two mobile operators have signed a memorandum of understanding concerning a joint campaign to promote 3G in the Netherlands. It seems they will set up a W-CDMA base station and demonstrate the types of 3G services DoCoMo, which owns 15 percent of KPN Mobile, is providing in Japan.

Interesting stuff, potentially. So, what equipment will they use? Which handsets will be used? Will all of DoCoMo's FOMA services be available to try out? Does anyone at KPN know?

Apparently not. "We have no technical details. The team that will be involved is in Japan. They will be back next week," says a gruff KPN spokesman. "There is no one here who can tell you anything."

Oh, go on. "No."

A DoCoMo press release (there wasn't one from KPN Mobile) made public at the end of the Japanese working day mentions the trials will begin in August (see KPN & NTT Team on 3G). Can Mijnheer van de Huffy confirm this? "No."

So, from what information is available it seems DoCoMo is going to set up the base station and KPN Mobile will operate a "demonstration room" at the company's headquarters in The Hague.

Those lucky enough to enter "the room" -- "opinion formers" such as journalists, analysts, other telecom operators, and vendors -- will get their hands on "actual handsets" to experience 3G services for one year only. Allegedly these demonstration services may include (so don't hold your breath) "videophone, mobile internet [a pet hate phrase of Unstrung], i-motion sound, and video-clip distribution service," blah blah blah.

The whole reason to do this is to "generate strong interest in 3G service as part of a successful launch in the European market," something already being done by Manx Telecom on the Isle of Man since late last year. And that's out in the open air with a number of base stations.

It is possible that the move is a reaction to the current negative coverage that 3G and, in particular, DoCoMo's FOMA service has received (for example, see Japan's 3G Needs a Kick Start). So conjectures Katrina Bond, a principal analyst at U.K.-based Analysys Consulting:

"This could be their way of countering some of the skepticism there is in the market and an effort to appease investors. At this stage it is probably appropriate that they restrict the demonstrations, as they will not want to whet the public's appetite for certain services and then not deliver. That was what went wrong with WAP."

We look forward to the summons from The Hague.

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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