Fully integrated worldwide wireless communication has come a step closer with the help of a grant of almost 4 million from the Information Society Technology (IST) Programme of the European Unions Framework Programme. The OPIUM project carried out trials of 3G services in China, Portugal, Spain, Germany, the UK and Ireland, in support of the accelerated rollout of commercial services. These trials dealt with the protocol and application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow Internet services to be reapplied to telecommunications networks to result in the emergence of new services. OPIUM has developed an open platform for the integration of 3G UMTS middleware and is addressing key issues such as interoperability, roaming and billing, says Barry Downes, OPIUM's project coordinator from Telecommunications Software Systems Group. Such issues need to be tackled to enable Mobile Operators to support third party service providers, to create the mobile services that will make 3G a success. "The trials have offered up some very interesting results so far. Real people have been using services on the platform applications and we have been using these scenarios to identify issues." Peter Walters, UK National Contact Point for IST within the EU's 6th Framework Programme, believes that EU funding of projects like OPIUM is essential, saying: As the demand for instant access to information by people on the move continues to grow, we must ensure that Europe is at the forefront of research and development. With total costs of more than 8.5 million, projects like OPIUM are unlikely to be viable without the help of EU funding. The Framework Programmes are the EUs main vehicle for support of leading edge, internationally collaborative R&D. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free information on how to access some of the 17.5bn available should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080. The OPIUM project had to overcome a number of difficulties in making all the technology fit seamlessly together. However, this had been expected in a project trying to integrate existing applications and deliver innovative services such as location based services, call control, media messaging, SIP services, and streamed video and audio. "It is very difficult even to get a demonstration of 3G end-user services, so the trials we conducted were vital," Barry Downes added. He believes OPIUM's pan-European network and middleware platform should really take off with operators, vendors and end-users as it is very difficult for organisations to gain access to the networks of the large operators. Already commercial interest in the project's findings has been expressed and Barry Downes expects this to increase as the project draws to a conclusion.The EU's Framework Programmes are the worlds largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Unions main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 19 billion. Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:,? Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;,? Information Society Technologies;,? Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;,? Aeronautics and Space;,? Food Quality and Safety;,? Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and,? Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are provided by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk ,IST Programme ,The IST Priority Thematic Area (PTA) of the 6th Framework Programme(FP6) is the largest of the seven PTAs with a budget of 3.6bn over the lifetime of FP6. The first Call for proposals with a budget of 1070m - closed in April 2003. The second Call closed on 15 October 2003 and had a budget of 525m.