Technology

GSMA kicks off '3G for all' program

NEW DELHI: GSM Association (GSMA), a global trade association for mobile operators, has approved a "3G for all" program to bring 3G multimedia services and mobile internet access to many more people in both the developed and the developing worlds.


Over the next few months, a group of operator members of the GSMA plan to establish a core set of common requirements for 3G handsets to create the economies of scale that will allow mobile phone suppliers to rapidly bring down the cost of manufacturing these high-tech devices.


This was disclosed today here at a press conference, which was attended by officials of GSMA and its Indian chapter.


"Our 3G handset initiative will allow far more people to take advantage of the video clips, mobile music, Internet access, and many other multimedia services now enjoyed by more affluent users in the developed world," according to GSMA CEO Rob Conway.


"Our Emerging Market Handset program is a compelling demonstration of how economies of scale can be brought to bear to accelerate falls in the cost of manufacturing mobile phones," he added.


Under the initiative, which builds on the success of the GSMA‘s Emerging Market Handset program, mobile phone suppliers will compete to design a 3G handset that meets the operators‘ common requirements.


The GSMA will endorse the winning handset, which will be widely deployed by operators participating in the program.


The GSMA‘s Emerging Market Handset (EMH) program, which has hit its goal to reduce the wholesale price of entry-level handsets to less than $30, has catalysed the creation of a new segment of ultra-low cost phones. The availability of such low cost handsets has enabled many millions of people in over 56 countries to begin using telecommunications for the first time.


Motorola, the winning vendor in the EMH program, is driving forward with its vision to connect the unconnected through this program and expects to ship more than 20 million EMH handsets by the end of 2006.


The EMH program has helped bring the wholesale cost of GSM handsets in India down by more than 25 per cent since last year, fuelling the growing use of mobile communications in rural areas.


Despite the fall in handset prices, the GSMA estimates that about a billion people worldwide won‘t be able to afford their own handset for the foreseeable future. Through its Development Fund, the GSMA is looking at how to extend the many benefits of mobile communications to these people.


The Development Fund is financing a series of pilot projects in Africa and Asia that enable local entrepreneurs to set up payphone businesses or ‘Internet cafes‘ where people can access the Internet, email or other data services.


In India, for example, the Development Fund has helped mobile operator Airtel launch a pilot project in the UP West region that equips local entrepreneurs with handsets specially-adapted to function as payphones.


Other Indian mobile operators, such as Idea Cellular, are setting up similar pilot projects with the aid of the Development Fund. The GSMA is also examining how mobile networks can be used to give rural communities in India access to email and the Internet.


MARAN WANTS 3G SPECTRUM TO BE PRICED


Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran today favoured pricing of 3G mobile spectrum, the Press trust of India has reported.


Maran who was speaking to reporters after the GSM Association‘s meet, was quoted by PTI as saying, "Government has to make some money out of it (3G spectrum)... (and) make it very competitive and does not want people to sit over spectrum."


The minister, however, did not touch upon how 3G should be priced, leaving the matter to the sector regulator Trai. "Government will take a decision after TRAI comes out with its recommendations," Maran said.


GSM HITS TWO BILLION MILESTONE


This weekend, the mobile phone industry will celebrate a historic milestone as it connects the second billionth GSM mobile phone user in the world, the GSMA announced.


The GSMA said that new users are signing up at the rate of 1,000 per minute (just under 18 per second) to services that include both second generation GSM, as well as third generation 3GSM services - for which there are already more than 72 million users in the world.


"This is the fastest growth of technology ever witnessed," said GSMA chairman Craig Ehrlich.


"While it took just 12 years for the industry to reach the first billion connections. The second billion has been achieved in just two and a half years boosted by the phenomenal take up of mobile in emerging markets such as China, India, Africa and Latin America, which accounted for 82 per cent of the second billion subscribers."


Mobile services based on GSM technology were first launched in Finland in 1991. Today, more than 690 mobile networks provide GSM services across 213 countries and GSM represents 82.4 per cent of all global mobile connections.


"We are proud to be a part of this mobile revolution. India has played a vital role in this growth being one of the fastest growing mobile market in the world," said Bharti Airtel CMD and a board member GSMA Sunil Bharti Mittal.


China is the largest single GSM market in the world today, with more than 370 million users, followed by Russia with 145 million, India with around 80 million and the USA with 78 million users. In India, mobile has even become the fastest selling consumer product - pushing bicycles to the number two spot.


GSMA INNOVATION AWARD FOR 3GSM


The GSM Association today also announced a new mobile innovation competition for young, small and start up companies across Asia that are developing technologies, applications and content for the fast moving mobile space.


Unveiled today following the GSMA‘s board meeting in New Delhi, the Asian Mobile Innovation Awards will include two categories --- for Most Innovative Mobile Application or Content and the Most Innovative Technology.


"Asia is a hot bed of innovation for the mobile world, there is an astonishing array of talent dedicated to developing new ideas for the market. However, it‘s a complex market with many players and small players with interesting or astonishing ideas have to fight hard to be heard," said Conway.


The competition, which is now open for entry, will culminate at Asia‘s premiere mobile communications event, the 3GSM World Congress Asia 2006 (Singapore, 16-20 October), attended by leaders from region-wide mobile operators, manufacturers and leading players from across the mobile value chain.

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