Mobile phone customers of T-Mobile in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands can expect faster mobile internet access this month.

The German operator plans to offer HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) in these three markets first, with its other markets, including the UK, to follow later in the year, said chief technology officer Hamid Akhavan at a news conference yesterday.

Speeds of 1.8Mbps (megabits per second) will be available at the launch, according to Akhavan. Next year, the operator hopes to increase speeds to between 3.6Mbps and 7.2Mbps. These are speeds that compete with fixed-lined DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology, Akhavan said.

T-Mobile will not offer customers an HSDPA-branded service, but will automatically connect them where service is available, he added.

Initially, users will only be able to connect to the network using an HSDPA card inserted in their notebooks, according to Ulli Gritzuhn, chief marketing director at T-Mobile. They will "have to wait most likely until the third quarter" for mobile handsets based on the higher-speed 3G (third-generation) technology, he said.

On Monday, BenQ Mobile, a company formed following the acquisition last year of Siemens' mobile phone division by Taiwanese manufacturer BenQ, announced plans to be the first manufacturer to deliver an HSDPA mobile handset in time for the start of the World Cup games in Germany, beginning in June.

But Gritzuhn was sceptical. "It would be great to have HSDPA phones in time for the game because the quality of mobile TV streams would be much better than at current speeds, but I really don't expect the phones to arrive on time," he said.

As for mobile TV service broadcast to handsets, Gritzuhn said several pilots based on DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) will be taking place during the games.

T-Mobile, however, doesn't plan to offer a DMB service, according to Gritzuhn. "We view DVB-H as a superior technology and intend to offer a commercial service based on this technology, hopefully in the near future," he said. "Some standards and spectrum issues must be resolved before we can move ahead."