Consumers dreaming of exotic 3G (third-generation) services delivered to their mobile phones may want to put those thoughts on hold after Intel's boss said yesterday that firms had overblown expectations.

Telcos and equipment makers have over-hyped the capabilities of 3G mobile technology and need to set about readjusting market expectations as rollout plans for 3G networks slow down, according to Intel president and chief executive Craig Barrett.

While consumers have been led to expect the coming availability of high-end 3G services, GPRS (general packet radio service), not 3G, will be the next generation of mobile technology that is widely deployed, Barrett said in a speech in Taiwan yesterday.

GPRS is an upgrade to current GSM mobile networks that allows an increase in data-transmission speeds from 9.6Kbps (kilobits per second) to around 40Kbps, and is expected to eventually offer speeds above 100Kbps. By comparison, 3G is expected to ultimately offer wireless data transfer rates of up to 2Mbps (megabits per second).

Barrett believes GPRS will be widely deployed before 3G technology in the short term. However, GPRS is nonexistent in Japan, one of the world's largest wireless services markets, and is several years away from widespread roll out across the US, another major market.

There is some evidence that Barrett's prediction could come true. In South Korea, for example, the country's major carriers have delayed deployment of 3G networks, instead favouring the use of GPRS-like fast packet data services on existing 2G networks.

With GPRS expected to be closer than 3G to reaching the average consumer's handset in many markets, Intel is working on technologies that take advantage of the bandwidth increase that is offered by GPRS networks.