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Sat, Mar 31, 2001 EST
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Siemens, Nokia Introduce New, Faster Mobile Phones
By Hans Greimel   Associated Press
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HANOVER, Germany — Market leader Nokia and electronics giant Siemens introduced new mobile phones Wednesday that transmit data up to four times as quickly as current models, offering users quicker access to the Internet while they wait for new generation phones to arrive.

Using a technology called GPRS, or General Packet Radio Service, the new phones can transmit signals at two to four times the current speed.

U.S. rival Motorola had been the only firm offering phones using such technology. But many other phone makers are now rushing to roll out the new GPRS handsets.

Nokia of Finland and Germany's Siemens introduced their own ahead of Thursday's opening of CeBIT, the world's largest computer and technology fair. Nokia launched two models, while Siemens unveiled one, all of which should be in shops during the second half of this year.

Nokia forecast that the new technology would help it grab 35 percent of the market share for mobile phones, but it gave no timeframe.

GPRS is also known as 2.5G, a reference to its role as a bridge between the current technology and the upcoming third-generation phones, which will provide even higher-speed access to the wireless Internet.

The new generation technology called UMTS, or Universal Mobile Telecommunication System, is expected to make their debut in 2003, although major telecom firms such as Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone Group PLC have said they don't expect UMTS to generate significant revenues until 2004 or 2005.

In the meantime, GPRS handsets are billed as a medium-term solution after last year's introduction of Wireless Application Protocol phones fell flat.

WAP phones, which offered the first true Internet access over a handset, were quickly dubbed "wait and pay" for the interminable loading time required to access Web pages.

Unlike traditional wireless phones which transmit in a continuous signal that keeps the same frequency open the length of the transmission — often wasting time — GPRS breaks phone calls into tiny bundles.

These bundles then find the quickest way to their destination and are reassembled there, much the same way that information is sent over the Internet.

Siemens has targeted China as a growth market in its plans to become one of the world's top mobile telephone suppliers.

Siemens is currently No. 6 behind such market leaders as Nokia, Ericsson and Panasonic in global sales of mobile phones and accessories, but it is already the third-largest supplier to Europe.

Nokia has lowered its forecast for global handset sales this year, but stood by its estimates that the company would post a first-quarter profit.

In recent weeks, profit warnings from mobile phone competitors Motorola and Ericsson of Sweden have made markets nervous and increased speculation that Nokia might follow suit.

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