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Vodafone blames handset shortage for 3G delay

OXFORD, United Kingdom-Trying to divert criticism about its third-generation (3G) strategy away from itself, Vodafone said the shortage of fully capable 3G handsets will now mean the launch of its high-speed data network will slip from the second half of this year into 2003.

Hutchison 3G, which still maintains it will have an adequate supply of handsets to launch a limited European service this year, has complained in the past about a lack of 3G handsets. And rival operator MmO2 stated late last year that insufficient dual-mode handsets would push its 3G launch into next year.

When the long-awaited terminals do appear, most observers believe they will cost around 660 euros (US$647) for the basic models. Operators are not expected to be keen on following past trends of heavily subsidizing these new handsets.

Separately, Vodafone announced it has increased its shareholding in Vodafone Portugal and Vodafone Sweden for a total cost of 88 million euros (US$86.3 million). The company said its stake in Vodafone Portugal had increased by approximately 3.2 percent to 54.1 percent, while its stake in Vodafone Sweden had grown by 2 percent to 73.1 percent.

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