Mobile operator Orange is cutting back investment and jobs and postponing its launch of third-generation (3G) services across continental Europe.
The firm will now use only the UK as a testing ground for its 3G services before extending them to the rest of Europe in 2004.
Orange says its 3G network currently boasts 4,000 sites in the UK, at various states of capacity.
This will give the firm "more than 50 per cent" coverage across the country when the network is switched on for its planned "soft launch" in the summer of next year.
Orange has yet to commit to a launch date for its full service other than sometime in 2004.
The operator said it would slow down any further roll-out of equipment to existing sites because of a lack of terminals, handsets and software applications needed to offer 3G services.
"We're in a period of land acquisition at the moment. But it's not worth spending loads on equipment for services that won't be used for another 18 months," an Orange spokesman said.
As well as cutting back on capital costs, the operator may axe between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs across Europe in the next 12 months (including the 800 that have already been cut in the UK and Denmark).
It also needs a new chief executive following the retirement of Jean-Francois Pontal.
Orange described the changes as "being more sensible about how we spend our money".
Alan Pyne, director at telecoms analayst Schema, said other operators would probably also decide to wait.
"It shows Orange is uncertain about what services it will be able to offer over 3G," he said. "It's frustrating from an industry point of view but I think the other operators will follow suit, but are just keeping quiet at the moment."
But Pyne had sympathy for the operators' caution, given the financial markets' lack of enthusiasm for capital investment projects.
"There are so many elements still to be reconciled before 3G services can be launched that I can understand them being cautious.
"It is a risk, so why charge into it until you're sure the market is going to progress?" he said.
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