Some 3G users experience faults that won't go away Music videos and football highlights are among the hi-tech drawcards that set apart third-generation mobile phones. But for some users, simply getting a call through can be a difficult task at times. Scratchy reception, dropped calls, batteries that won't charge and frozen screens are all problems that some 3G phone users have experienced since switching to the new technology. Many 3G users do not experience such problems, but for those that do, the glitches keep occurring even after the phones are repaired, according to interviews the South China Morning Post conducted with about two dozen 3G phone users. Construction worker Shek Shing-ping, for example, has had his 3G phone repaired four times since buying it from Hutchison Telecommunications in November. But the phone still drops calls mid-conversation and then freezes up. 'I'm highly dissatisfied,' says Mr Shek. 'I want to throw the phone away. I can't use it, so what's the point of owning it?' But if he did that, Mr Shek would still be required to pay the service fee remaining on the one-year contract he signed. Francis Lau Chung-ming, an associate professor of electronic and information engineering at Polytechnic University, said glitches in 3G phones occurred because the technology was still relatively new. 'Some of the problems with these phones have not been discovered yet by the manufacturer,' he said. 'That is why they need their customers to tell them.' Professor Lau said dropped calls may result when phones switch from the 3G network to the 2G network, as bugs in the software might not allow for a smooth transition. Defective hardware might be another reason, he said. Professor Lau said it might take three or four years for the technology to mature with wider network coverage. Service providers must install 3G network base stations more closely together than 2G base stations because the new standard requires faster data transmission. But this could prove difficult if owners of some residential buildings oppose it, he said. Hutchison was the first to launch 3G services in January last year. It has acquired more than 300,000 users. SmarTone-Vodafone and CSL followed in December last year and have about 15,000 and 8,000 3G users, respectively. All of the phone users interviewed were Hutchison customers, most of whom were waiting at a phone-repair centre. Users of other companies could not be reached for comment. A Hutchison spokeswoman declined to say how many 3G users had sought help with their phones but said company staff explained the contracts to customers when they subscribed to the service. Customers were informed that they would be required to pay the remaining monthly service fee if they wanted to terminate the contract early, she said. A SmarTone spokeswoman said these kinds of problems were not common among its customers but acknowledged that they existed. A CSL spokeswoman said the company's 3G customers would experience problems as they would with their 2G phones. However, she declined to say how many had suffered problems, saying some phones had been sent to the manufacturer for service. The Consumer Council received 92 complaints about 3G phones last year.