3G has "finally come of age", according to industry analysts, who predict that users of the mobile communications technology will exceed 70 million by the end of this year.
Informa Telecoms and Media noted that, although 3G technology may not have been mature from day one, subscriber growth has outperformed that of first-generation analogue and second-generation digital networks in the four years since NTT DoCoMo launched the world's first 3G network in Japan.
Gavin Patterson, an analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, said: "By the end of June 2005 there was a total of 43 million 3G users worldwide, and we forecast a total of 70.6 million by the end of 2005.
"Next year, 3G services will start to reach mass-market proportions and we are forecasting a total of 135 million 3G users by the end of 2006, rising to almost 800 million by the end of 2010."
Asia is expected to host some of the first commercial 3.5G networks in the world. South Korea's KTF is expecting to roll out HSDPA in 17 major metropolitan areas by the end of this year, and expand the coverage to 45 more cities by June 2006.
The third Korean operator, LG Telecom, is expected to run a 1xEV-DO Revision A trial from Lucent Technologies in the second quarter of 2006, and to set up a commercial version in the third quarter launch the system by year-end.
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