3GSM Asia: GSMA launches low cost 3G challenge

The GSM Association (GSMA) is inviting handset manufacturers to “submit proposals” to develop a low-cost 3G handset.

The handset should, says the Association, 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”.

The 3G for All phone is designed to drive down the cost of WCDMA handsets with the aim of stimulating adoption in both developed and undeveloped markets. The winning entrant will be announced at the 3GSM World Congress in February 2007. The Association then plans to make the handset available to all its members.

Spearheading the GSM Association’s ‘3G for All’ campaign, Cingular Wireless, Globe Telecom, Hutchison 3G, KTF, MTN, Orange, Smart, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, T-Mobile and Vodafone aim to make 3G services accessible to a much wider user base.

The ‘3G for All’ programme is intended to emulate the association’s successful Emerging Market Handset strategy, which sought to establish an ultra-low cost GSM handset for high growth, low income markets.

With the world’s 2 billionth GSM subscriber acquired in June of this year, developing markets are expected to deliver a large proportion of new GSM users going forward.

Indeed, the Asia Pacific region is set to break through the 1 billionth mobile subscription barrier at the end of this month, according to Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Liz Hall. The number of mobile subscriptions in Asia has doubled over the past three years and GSM now accounts for more than 70 per cent of total mobile subscriptions in the region.

US vendor Motorola, which won the tender for the Emerging Markets Handset strategy, has guarded its sales figures carefully, but the company is expected to have shifted 20 million low cost handsets by the end of this year.

Operators have already started releasing low-cost 3G handsets including the UK’s O2 and its Ice phone released in September.

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