Hutchison Whampoa yesterday admitted its European third-generation (3G) services faced technical problems but denied they were major and insisted it was on course to launch in October. Group managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning interrupted his summer holiday in Canada to hold conference calls in an attempt to shore up investor confidence in 3G plans. The calls came after a London newspaper, citing Hutchison sources, said the company's first 3G customers would suffer months of 'dropped calls' - where a connection is lost mid-call - because of the technical limitations of 3G phones. Mr Fok admitted there had been dropped calls but said this had happened to other operators and internal trials in London had indicated no major problem. 'We are in a nerve-wracking stage as we go through the inter-operator testing,' he said. 'We have had numerous heart attacks but we also have had the delightful experience of overcoming most of the problems in a speedy manner.' Ports-to-telecommunications conglomerate Hutchison, which has committed US$16.7 billion to 3G, has been hit by collapsing sentiment towards telecoms and doubts over the viability of 3G services. Hutchison shares have lost more than half their value in the past two years but rose 3.7 per cent to HK$56 yesterday. Fresh doubts over 3G were raised last week when Spain's Telefonica and Finland's Sonera called a halt to their joint venture in Germany. However, Mr Fok said Hutchison did not have the financial problems experienced by these operators and their withdrawal would mean less competition. 'We are one of the smallest players in this universe. They are highly geared but still huge companies. So I can't simply count them out,' he said. The company is due to launch trial services for customers in Britain and Italy in October, and hopes to acquire up to 10,000 customers in each market by the end of this year. Some analysts remained sceptical. Credit Suisse First Boston yesterday said it was 'somewhat surprised that Hutchison remains adamant that 3G will be effectively launched late this year even though much industry opinion is of the view that this is technically doubtful'.