A new technology has emerged that might be a real competitor to 3G.

Independent technology editor Charles Arthur writes: "Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has developed a technology which, within a couple of years, should be widely available in mobile phones and handheld computers, and which will pose a serious threat to 3G services as soon as it arrives."

CSR (the original provider of Bluetooth chips for phones) has created a 802.11g Wi-Fi chip. The company plans to add this UniFi chip into next-generation phones so that when in a hotspot area (currently these can be found in airports, coffee shops, hotels and the like) the mobile would be able to access cheap, high-speed Internet at up to 54 megabits per second.

This would mean mobile's fitted with this chip would be able to stream video, download film trailers, buy music, and surf the Web. 3G can do this too, but its maximum data transfer speed is 384 kilobits per second - almost 150 times slower than Wi-Fi, explains Arthur.

Ivory tower

The downside is that WiFi is more expensive than 3G, but CSR technical director James Collier told The Independent: "We don't design in an ivory tower. We do have customers for this. I have travelled around the world, and I have been talking about the specifications for this chip for a couple of years."

He even predicts that there will be demand among "kids in playgrounds and on buses who want to swap files quickly and easily".

According to the report, the chips should become widely incorporated into mobiles in about 16 months' time, then, in 2007, volume production will begin of chips offering Firewire (the high-speed wired data connection) and USB2.

"By then, I think we'll struggle to decide whether we need to lug a computer around any more; our phones will have as much processing power, and connectivity, as any modern laptop. And if that doesn't leave you amazed and impressed by CSR, you must work for them," writes Arthur.