3G Video Calls: Who Will Blink First?
By Carlo Longino, Mon Jan 05 17:15:00 GMT 2004

The UK 3G market is at loggerheads over video calls -- carriers have made the feature a cornerstone of their 3G offerings, while handset market leader Nokia is yet to support them. How will this game of chicken pan out?

This isn't the first time Nokia's decisions on what to include in its handsets has made or broken an emerging standard or feature -- the company was the driving force in delivering downloadable monophonic ringtones, while conversely its lack of support for EMS ensured that messaging standard never caught on. Nokia says the UK 3G market will, for the forseeable future, be driven by multimedia content, while the carriers, if even only for symbolic reasons, are committed to video calls.

At least one carrier - 3 - has said it won't offer handsets that don't support all its network features, including video calls, leaving Nokia out in the cold, as it doesn't offer any European 3G handsets that support the feature. Other carriers aren't saying if they'd dump Nokia as a supplier, but they are saying that video calls are an important piece of their puzzle.

Nokia's resistance to support video calls could hold the feature back, as it's dependent on a large pool of users to succeed. After all, what good's a videophone if you've got nobody to call? But their resistance, and their banking on the draw of their brand, could see them shut out of early 3G handset sales. But it seems the wider choice would be to support a wide range of available features, and let consumers choose what they're interested in, rather than making that decision for them.

The article touches on the bigger issue -- are video calls something that hold value to consumers and end users? While the UK networks all seem to think so, plenty of people are skeptical. Will there be sustained interest in video calling once people get over their inital gee-whiz reaction?