Mobile phone giant Vodafone is targeting 10 million third-generation (3G) customers by March 2006 as it aims to start recouping about €24 billion ($31 million) spent on 3G licences four years a

Mobile phone giant Vodafone is targeting 10 million third-generation (3G) customers by March 2006 as it aims to start recouping about €24 billion ($31 million) spent on 3G licences four years ago.

Vodafone today (Nov. 10) said that retailers in 13 countries were now stocked with 3G handsets, which offer CD-quality sound, stereo speakers and MP3 players, access to 3D gaming, video and audio streaming and video phone calls.

"Vodafone live! (phones) with 3G will become increasingly mass market next year and we expect over 10 million customers to be using Vodafone live! with 3G by March 2006 in our subsidiaries," CEO Arun Sarin says in a statement.

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone group by revenue with 139.2 million customers, has already been selling 3G phones in Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy; the group said in September it had planned to beef up the offering with 10 new 3G handsets made by 6 suppliers in time for Christmas.

Its full commercial launch helps shore up its struggling Japanese business, brings the new phones to key markets such as the United Kingdom, and throws down the gauntlet to rival minnows such as 3, the Hutchison Whampoa -controlled 3G operator.

The phones, which will be upgraded Vodafone live! handsets -- the company's flagship phone range -- will be available in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Seven of the new handsets are aimed at Japan.


-- Reuters

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