Namibia's main mobile phone operator, Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC), 34-percent owned by Portugal Telecom, plans to launch third generation services and Siemens will build the network.

Siemens said in a statement late on Monday it had agreed to supply and install a new 3G HSDPA network, which connects customers to high-speed broadband services via their mobile phones.

The statement said the new technology one of the first 3G networks in sub-Saharan Africa would give MTC an edge as it girds for the launch of a second mobile operator, Powercom, planned for later this year.

The installation of a 3G HSDPA network will give MTC a significant technology advantage over its new competitor, said Siemens, adding it expected the network to be up and running by the end of the year.

MTC's new rival Powercom is owned by Norway's Telecom Management Partners, the Namibian energy utility NamPower and several others. It has said it plans to build 3G technology but has yet to announce concrete plans.

Industry analysts and companies are divided over whether 3G technology which have had mixed success in the West makes good business sense for the world's poorest continent, where only a tiny proportion of users will be able to afford the services.

However proponents point out that on a continent with patchy fixed-line services, mobile technology could boost access to broadband Internet access.

South Africa's Vodacom, owned by Vodafone and Telkom, and MTN have already launched 3G services. Mauritius already has 3G services and networks are being built in Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

HSDPA high speed downlink packet access is a faster version of 3G, sometimes dubbed 3.5G.