Hutchison Whampoa's third-generation (3G) launch in Britain is likely to be slowed by the news that strategic partner NTT DoCoMo is delaying the advent of the world's first 3G network. 'It would be a surprise, perhaps a miracle, for Hutchison to have a commercial launch of [Europe's first] 3G services by the middle of next year, as planned,' an analyst said. 'The promise of delivering anything more than a basic voice-service agreement seems unrealistic.' DoCoMo, the Japanese mobile giant, yesterday said its full i-mode services would begin on October 1, not May 30 as originally planned. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun yesterday reported DoCoMo may have delayed the launch of full-services because of undefined 'technical glitches'. The newspaper said the delay was expected to have 'repercussions in the global cellular market' by causing wireless providers in the United States and Europe to push back their 3G launches to next year. Industry sources in Hong Kong said DoCoMo faced further delays if it did not quickly solve software problems. Yesterday, DocoMo official Yuichiro Kuwahata told Reuters further tests were needed to ensure 100 per cent stability of the network. This would put back the launch date four months - to October 1. A Hutchison Whampoa official declined to comment on whether there would be a delay in launching its European 3G services. Hutchison UK 3G - the new network operator owned 65 per cent by Hutchison and 35 per cent by DoCoMo and its associate KPN Mobile - planned to leverage on DoCoMo technology knowhow to begin the 3G services soft launch in the second quarter next year. While the full launch date was still unknown, Hutchison management indicated the company did not expect operational break-even before 2005. Analysts said a delay in the 3G launch would not only mean a delay in Hutchison's revenue stream, but it would affect its projected return on investments. Hutchison laid out 11 billion euros (about HK$77.34 billion) for 3G licences in Britain, Italy and Austria. It won a licence in Sweden in a beauty contest. 'Sentiment towards Hutchison is going to be negative,' said Eddie Lau Kwok-lap, an analyst at ABN Amro. 'What we are not sure about is whether there will be corresponding delay in Hutchison's European business as well.' The bright side of the DoCoMo delay was the promise that its handset - due out in October - would be compatible with the European standard. More details would be unveiled by DocoMo this week. Hutchison shares fell as much as 2.03 per cent yesterday but rebounded to close at HK$86, off 0.29 per cent. 'There is still a lot of scepticism around the 3G business, and the take-up rate for 2.5G data transmission is not satisfactory,' said John Lai, chief investment officer for Nikko Asset Management, indicating a delay might be a good thing.