Vodafone is so confident that it will win a licence to operate the next generation mobile comms network, that it is already planning to run a full commercial service by 2002.
The licences will not be awarded until early next year, but Vodafone is already trialling its new technology, based on the UMTS standard, with a view to taking it live in 2002.
The GSM mobile network operator is working with equipment vendor Lucent to test UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), which will provide full multimedia services to users.
The trial will begin by the end of the year and will be internal initially, but Vodafone expects a limited number of subscribers nears its headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, to also take part later.
It will be using kit supplied by Lucent but a handset provider has yet to be identified.
Tim Harrabin, strategy director at Vodafone, said: "We are very confident that we will be awarded a licence. We will begin the trial as soon as Lucent delivers the equipment, which will be by the end of the year. The trial will continue until the launch of UMTS commercially."
Findings from the trial will be forwarded to the mobile communications standards bodies including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
Last week, Lucent's rival Nortel said it is working with Panasonic to carrying out early trials of next generation mobile communications technology in Europe, north America and Asia.
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