Long-distance glitch Hutchison Whampoa's third-generation phone headaches meant a trouble-free launch in its home market was of huge significance. All the pieces seemed in place yesterday. Group managing director Canning Fok emerged from his 3G bunker with a smart new haircut. The boss of NEC was on hand to promise that handset supply was no problem. Then came the live demo. On one phone was Mr Fok and on another Hutch's 3 boss in Australia, Kevin Russell. Beyond a muffled 'congratulations' from Down Under it was just a shame that no one could hear what was being said. Mr Fok quickly terminated the conversation even while Mr Russell frantically semaphored to show the miracle of long-distance video. The 'glitch' was blamed on disturbance in an undersea cable. Don't you just hate real life. Shooting the messenger Mind you, for serious public relations problems, Hutchison's 3G woes Down Under take some beating. Press commentary about dropped calls on its 3 service has been running hot. Laid-off call-centre staff have made damaging allegations about bad service. Compounding the awful publicity was a survey by the Australian Computer Society which found low levels of satisfaction among 3 users. The firm claimed the survey was defamatory and skewed to ensure negative responses. Hutchison lawyers are playing hardball, demanding its findings be withdrawn, according to a report in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. A case of shooting the messenger, perhaps?