Status Symbol: The new 3G iPhone is displayed on a table, as customers buy the latest iPhone inside an Apple Store in San Jose, California. The much sought-after 3G iPhone will be made available in Bermuda through CellularOne in early 2009.
MCT photo
Status Symbol: The new 3G iPhone is displayed on a table, as customers buy the latest iPhone inside an Apple Store in San Jose, California. The much sought-after 3G iPhone will be made available in Bermuda through CellularOne in early 2009. MCT photo
It's the news gadget lovers islandwide have been waiting for... the much-coveted iPhone is coming to Bermuda. Alas, not in time for Christmas, but within months.

That's the message from communications provider CellularOne, which is in the midst of a multi-million dollar system upgrade.

And once the upgrade to the company's cell sites and other infrastructure is complete, some handheld devices previously unavailable here will be brought to market.

"There's some really slick, feature-rich handsets," CellularOne chief operating officer Michael Leverock told us.

"We're looking to get fully unlocked 3G iPhones," he said.

"We're looking to bring these [the iPhone] to market in the very near future - within the next three to four months. Sooner than you think," he added.

Not to be outdone, Digicel this week said they're bringing the new BlackBerry Pearl 8220 flip phone to market "within the next seven days," according to Digicel CEO Wayne Caines.

As for the iPhone, up until now, the odd person you've seen on the street showing off their iPhone had to go abroad to purchase it and have it unlocked (in order to make them compatible with carriers other than AT&T). But that only works on the older model phones, and it only allows the owner to use a fraction of the phone's features, according to Mr. Leverock.

"We're now in the process of testing [our network]," he said. "3G technology is what most GSM carries are migrating to, and we decided to follow that path as well.

"This is going to allow for global roaming," he said.

'3G', or third generation technology refers to the latest mobile phone standards. It is based on the so-called 'family of standards' created by the International Telecommunication Union.

3G networks enable communications providers like CellularOne to offer the most advanced types of services.

Asked if the demand will exist for the new phones in the face of an economic downturn, Mr. Leverock said: "I think there is the possibility that we won't see uptake as much as we'd like, as the economic downturn affects Bermuda. [But] the cost of mobile phones are comparable to wire line phones, and if [customers] only can have one, I'm willing to bet people will keep their cellphones," he said.

Getting the bandwidth up to the speed he would like for the new phones would require co-ordination between CellularOne and Cable & Wireless, Mr. Leverock noted.

"It would mean on-island, we would have to facilitate the frequencies on the airwaves, the systems to facilitate ultra broadband, and the need to work with Cable & Wireless to ensure that the bandwidth is going off-site," he said.

"Negotiating for the aggregate bandwidth will be needed."

And higher broadband speeds will be needed as technology - and the way we use it - evolves.

"In the not-too-distant future, every house is going to require 50 megs of bandwidth. That's 25 to 30 times of what's provided now," Mr. Leverock said.

"The fact is that networks are becoming more integrated. People are going to be looking to have integrated user terminals [in the home] that will allow them to do anything," he said.