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ITU, GSMA tackle digital di

The ITU and the GSM Association (GSMA) joined forces on Tuesday in a bid to tackle the digital divide in some of the world’s least developed markets.

During the meeting of the Global Symposium for Regulators taking place in Dubai this week, Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the ITU, and Tom Phillips, chief of government & regulatory affairs at the GSMA, forged a memorandum of understanding geared at improving access to mobile services in developing countries.

The GSMA is a partner of ITU’s Connect the World initiative, which encourages new projects to bridge the digital divide.

Speaking to telecoms.com at the ITU 2006 conference in Hong Kong in December, Mario Maniewicz, head of the Telecommunication Development Symposium for the ITU, said next generation wireless networks are likely the best way to tackle the developing world.

“We are talking about countries that have problems with infrastructure and electricity,” he said. “Therefore it makes sense to use wireless to consolidate services.”

The ITU also anticipates that developing countries can leapfrog from legacy installations to NGNs, avoiding the teething problems that have been encountered by operators in more developed markets.

Under the partnership, the ITU and the GSMA will focus on three specific issues: supporting developing market projects for low cost access to ICT in underserved areas via the GSMA’s Development Fund and the ITU’s Connect the World initiative; seeking industry and government cooperation, with special emphasis on developing an enabling policy and regulatory environment; and global industry benchmarking with a view to improving decision making by compiling a comprehensive shared resource of key industry performance indicators.

As part of an initiative to make 3G handsets and services more affordable to emerging markets, the GSMA will announce the winner of its 3G for All tender at 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona next week.

Rumour has it that South Korean vendor LG Electronics has won the tender to produce an affordable, mass market 3G handset.

The GSMA announced the 3G for All campaign at 3GSM Asia in October, in the wake of its Emerging Markets Handsets initiative.

3G for All is designed to drive down the cost of WCDMA handsets with the aim of stimulating adoption in both developed and undeveloped markets.

The 3G for All handset should, according to the GSMA, be capable of sophisticated applications “that can support advanced services, such as high speed internet browsing, mobile TV and instant messaging, while costing significantly less than a low-end 3G handset today”.

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