UK consumers will get a taster of third-generation (3G) phones from next month as Hutchison 3G opens three shops in central London and Birmingham.
The shops, the first anywhere in Europe to sell the next-generation phones, will allow the public to trial a 3G phone and use the new service, which offers feature such as fast wireless internet access and video conferencing.
But Hutchison 3G has yet to give a firm date for when the shops would be opening or when the commercial services would start.
"We are not going to stick to a strict timetable. The key business target is the successful introduction of services," said the company's spokesman, Edward Brewster.
"There is not going to be a big bang launch. This is going to be a step-by-step phased launch of our services. This is an important part."
He said the first phase of the roll-out would see handsets being sent to "friendly users" and "friends of friends".
One thousand handsets are to be sent to these users, 500 of whom are based in the UK. The company will then evaluate feedback from them before moving on to a proper launch.
"We are in total virgin territory. No one has done this before on this scale and scope. We believe that this is unprecedented in this industry," Brewster said.
Hutchison 3G should receive 100,000 handsets from NEC and Motorola by the end of the year for its UK and Italian operations.
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