Distributor Hugh Symons has given a cautious welcome to the imminent arrival of third-generation (3G) handsets next month.
The UK's first 3G phones will be on sale by the end of March from new operator 3, offering services such as video calls and downloadable video clips of news and sport TV broadcasts from Sky and ITN.
Hugh Symons and Avenir Telecom have been appointed to handle the independent sector. Handsets will also be sold at high street chains including Phones4U, The Link and selected Superdrug stores.
Last week, research from Canalys found that sales of mobile devices rose 72 per cent in the last three months of 2002, and that 680,000 Nokia smartphones had been sold out of a total 1.6 million smartphones and PDAs sold over the period.
3 has ordered two million handsets over 12 months for its launches across several countries.
Ongoing software development had cast doubt on whether enough handsets would be ready, but Hugh Symons said it has been told that there will be enough.
Dan Belton, marketing director at the distributor, told vnunet.com: "There's been a lot written about availability, but we've been assured that 3 has solved the glitches and there will be enough handsets available.
"It's a new and exciting technology but it is expensive and users will have to be swayed into becoming excited about what 3G content services have to offer."
Handsets are likely to be discounted to less than £300 for the first 20,000 customers comprising 3's founders programme, although it is still unclear whether the channel will be invited to take part in this initiative.
Models from NEC and Motorola will later carry recommended retail prices of £399, with a third handset boasting a QWERTY keypad costing £449.
Belton suggested that 3G handsets mean a different type of sale for resellers.
"It's quite a dramatic shift in selling the kit," he said. "It's not about the handset brand, or the network brand, it's about selling the concept of how all the content services will affect the consumer's lifestyle."
Hugh Symons is currently training potential partners for accreditation but declined to say how many of its 650 resellers would be onboard for the launch.
Belton explained that the choice for consumers will be between a 3G phone and a PDA, describing the initial market as "people who might buy a PDA with some kind of connectivity but who don't really need a PDA".
"We still need to do some type of work identifying when each type of sale is most relevant," he added. "The key is what content and capabilities 3G handsets will have when they launch."
Subscription packages for data services will be available at £59.99 and £99.99 per month, although a 3 spokesman promised cheaper options later in the year.
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