CeBIT 2004: Not To Be A Broken Record, But...
By Carlo Longino, Thu Mar 18 14:15:00 GMT 2004

How many times do we have to say it? 3G's not going to go anywhere until vendors and carriers can deliver decent handsets to the mass market.

To quote my colleague Eric Lin, "Money, it's the phones." What first seemed to be just a manifestation of his gadgetlust has proven -- and continues to prove -- true. But how many times do we have to repeat that carriers aren't going to get out of first gear, especially with 3G, with a small selection of stinky handys?

We heard the complaining when GPRS was launched from the carriers, that the networks were ready, they just couldn't get enough devices. Carriers now are crying the same song, saying there aren't enough handys, both in quantity and quality. Vodafone repeated this today at CeBIT, while T-Mobile said it didn't want to mimic its rival's phoneless launch. And they're not wrong. There haven't been any significant 3G handset announcements at the show, and most of the 3G devices we've seen haven't been too inspiring.

Nokia's 7600 handset is on display by O2, and T-Mobile also said today they'd be selling the device when they launch 3G in Germany and the UK in May. While the 7600 is well designed and has striking looks, its curious form factor may keep it from reaching the popularity of a similarly equipped model in a more traditional flip or candy-bar form. But the fact that so many carriers are picking it up -- and pumping up the fact that they're doing so -- speaks to the shortage of other options. It's not as if these 3G launches are surprises or anything, so where are the terminals?

As Eric's pointed out before, having great handys available is one of the most important aspects of a 3G network's success. 3 was bogged down with its bulky devices at launch, and NTT DoCoMo's FOMA network only really took off once they got some cool handys.

So if we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: get the phones out!