Less than 0.01 per cent of mobile users are currently accessing services via European 3G, despite licences being granted three years ago, delegates at the 3GSM World Congress were told today.
Moreover, less than one per cent of the world's subscribers currently use GPRS, two years after it was launched as the big step towards 3G.
Michele Scanlon, research director at wireless analyst EMC, said that there were 4.3 million GPRS subscribers worldwide, with 2.6 million of these in western Europe. The total subscriber base is 1.134 billion.
The lack of enthusiasm among users to access more data on the move is further illustrated by the small numbers of UK users using multi-media messaging (MMS), or picture messaging, a key application operators are promoting on their underused GPRS networks.
By the end of last year, Orange and Vodafone combined had sold just 150,000 MMS handsets in the UK.
These figures are very poor considering MMS handsets have been heavily subsidised, came with three months free picture messaging and operators spent millions of pounds on marketing campaigns.
Rupert Reid, a consultant at analyst ARC Group, estimated that over half of all handsets would include MMS technology by the end of 2004, provided users want such services when they are bundled
Although SMS was bundled with a large number of phones from the early 1990s, the text messaging explosion didn't happen until the late 1990s.
Scanlon said that a big jump in the availability of 3G networks would take place between the end of this year and 2004.
But poor take-up of the current crop of data services, apart from the popular SMS technology, would likely further delay 3G networks.
Reid explained that data currently makes up around 10 per cent of operator revenues and that it would take another technology to increase this share to 30 per cent.
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