3G will be the first truly multimedia and more or less universally available communication system, the number of which will exceed the number of computers connected to Internet, Margus Hunt, president of Nokia Eesti, predicts.
NMT was the first communication standard applied in Estonia in 1991. It was followed by GSM in 1995, which, according to the specialists, will remain the most widely spread standard in Estonia.
Compared to its predecessors 3G enables to transfer more data through the mobile phone with higher quality.
According to Hunt, launching the third-generation mobile communication network in Estonia will cost about 5 billion kroons ( $269 million) and it will cover only Tallinn.
In Germany and Great Britain UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System) licenses were sold for 790, and 602 billion kroons respectively. Hunt said that in Germany mobile communication operators were ready to pay one dollar per country resident to get the 3G license.
"From the client's point of view the amount of data is what costs when using the 3G network. In the case of Estonia UMTS could probably become the standard," said Hunt. "People pay per kilobyte, not per minute. Nevertheless, the terms of payment depend upon operators."
At present two leading Scandinavian mobile phone suppliers - Nokia and Ericsson - are interested in supplying devices for the 3G network in Estonia.
Juri Kriisemann, public relations manager at Eesti Mobiiltelefon (Estonian Mobile Phone), said that all three operators active on the Estonian market are interested in continuing their activities on the 3G market.
"We are ready to provide the 3G service," said Kriisemann. "It is too early to apply for the licenses. According to the optimistic predictions, UMTS will be launched in 2002, and the pessimists say it will come later."
Helena Lohmus, spokesperson from Radiolinja, said that the aim of Radiolinja was to offer modern services.
To remain a competitive operator, the company has to apply for the license. According to Jaana Aduson, spokesperson from Q GSM, that company would also apply for the license.
Kriisemann said the development process is standing behind the development of a UMTS standard. He said that there are a lot of parties involved in the process and it takes time.
"Operators say it does not make any sense to create new services until there are terminals, while the suppliers of mobile phones are waiting for the operators to come out with their services," said Hunt.
According to Toomas Somera, chairman of the board at Eesti Telekom, the licenses for operating 3G network will be available in 2001. He predicted that the licenses would be given according to political will, the market share or according to the technical developments of the company, business daily Aripaev reported.
Somera believes the licenses should not be sold on auction for the highest price, because that might hinder later investments into the network. Kriisemann said he had no idea about how much the licenses would cost but he hoped the prices would not get too high. "The Estonian market is small. If the prices get too high on the auction, the investments would (not register a return) for a long time and it would not be worth investing," he said. "Estonia should not follow Europe in this matter."
"In my mind the state should decide on how many licenses it would give and for which price, and the operators should then pay for it," said Kriisemann.