GSMA gets 10 bids for low-cost 3G handset

Ten vendors have submitted bids to the GSM Association (GSMA) to produce a low-cost 3G (third-generation) mobile handset, the group's chairman said Monday.

"The senior management team is right now looking at those tenders," said Craig Ehrlich, the chairman of the GSMA's board of directors, speaking at a news conference on the opening day of the 3GSM World Congress Asia in Singapore. The bids had been received "a few days ago," he said.

The goal of the low-cost handset program is to spur adoption of 3G services, especially for data access, by reducing handset costs for subscribers in both emerging markets and developed countries.

Ehrlich, who also serves as a director of Hong Kong's Hutchison Mobile Communications Ltd., declined to comment on specifics of the tenders received. He also declined to discuss the expected cost of the winning 3G handset, but said the group is happy with the tenders it has received. "We're pleased with the numbers we are seeing," he said.

GSMA, a global trade group comprised of mobile operators, announced the contest for a low-cost 3G handset in June, following the success of an earlier program to produce low-cost handsets for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). Under that program, which contracted handset production to Motorola Inc., the GSMA issued a tender to produce a US$25 GSM handset.

The winning tender for the low-cost 3G handset will be announced in February 2007. The winning handset will be selected by representatives from 12 operators with 620 million subscribers Further down the road, the GSMA is considering a second contest to produce a low-cost HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) handset in 2008, Ehrlich said.

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