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February 22, 2006 6:04 pm

DoCoMo delays handset launch

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NTT DoCoMo has postponed the launch of a 3G handset made by Nokia because of software glitches.

The delay, which comes as Nokia has been working to step up its presence in the Japanese market, is an embarrassment for the Finnish group, the world’s largest mobile handset maker.

“We delayed the launch to adjust the handset quality. No decision has been made on when it might be launched,” said DoCoMo.

Nokia said last week that the handsets were scheduled to go on sale on Thursday.

The handset is Nokia’s first 3G model for DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile phone operator and the first to provide a 3G service based on the W-CDMA standard. DoCoMo’s deal with Nokia had faced problems, as a result of difficulties the Finnish group faced in implementing i-mode, DoCoMo’s mobile internet service, according to one official. As a result, DoCoMo had scaled back its procurement from Nokia, the official said. DoCoMo said on Wednesday that the problem was related to the software.

It is also difficult for new suppliers to an operator to ensure that their handsets work smoothly with the base stations and the myriad software that operators require.

“This shows that it is not that easy to make handsets for different markets even if they use the same W-CDMA standard,” says one industry official. After missing out on the demand for clamshell phones among Asian customers, Nokia has spent the past few years gaining market share in the region.

Asia accounted for 29 per cent of global sales last year, up from 26 per cent in 2004, although most of the growth came from selling cheaper products in China and India.

Foreign manufacturers are nonetheless keen to build a presence in Japan, which is one of the most competitive markets in the world.

“We see this as a chance to use W-CDMA technology, which is being deployed globally. We have been working on this for a long time,” Nokia said.

Nokia has had a presence in Japan since 1989.

Nokia is also supplying Vodafone in Japan.

Motorola, and LG Electronics and Pantech of Korea have also entered the Japanese market.

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