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Low-cost handsets to help accelerate 3G adoption in Asia

Posted: 13 Dec 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3G? Agere? 3G phone? 3G phones? 3G handset?

Polz: One of the biggest challenges in 3G is the availability of affordable handsets.

To receive Asia's warm welcome, 3G must have a makeover.

Roman Polz, senior marketing manager at Agere Systems' mobility division, believes that the market should also offer affordable 3G handsets alongside the high-end, high-featured and high-cost ones to gain widespread adoption in Asia.

"One of the biggest challenges in 3G is the availability of affordable handsets," said Polz, who also believes that the other major hurdle to widespread adoption is the cost of additional 3G services.

Although 3G offers operators the advantages of infrastructure efficiency and the ability to serve a larger number of subscribers, it has been experiencing slow acceptance in Asia. "[I think it's because] subscribers are using the telephone support, and are not really interested in 3G services and high-premium content. That's the obstacle," Polz said. "And this obstacle will come down as cheaper 3G handsets become available."

Polz added that low-cost handsets "will help spread the capability and reach of 3G. And as a result of the large number of handset owners, "everyone will occasionally use some of the 3G special services," he explained.

Polz also believes that low-cost handsets will save money for the operators. "[Having affordable handsets] means operators will provide less subsidies, will need less money to recover the expenses, and then we shall also see lower tariff for specific 3G services."

Integration is key
To help bring the costs down of cellphones, Agere developed platforms that can reduce BOM costs for both high-end and entry-level handsets. Last week, Agere launched its TrueNTRY X122 platform. Consisting of silicon chips, software and a development kit, the X122 enables CD-quality music, camera/camcorder functions and Internet access for a BOM of less than $30.

Designed for entry-level cellphones, X122 "has a very high level of integration," Polz said. It features an integrated speaker amplifier, CD quality stereo, polyphonic sound synthesizer, USB 2.0 On-the-Go controller with charging, power management circuits and battery-charging circuits with over-voltage protection.

This new platform adheres to the GPRS cellular standard, and handsets with X122 are scheduled to be available commercially in 1H 2007.

Two months before X122's launch, Agere introduced the TrueNTRY X125 platform, the second chipset from its Vision architectural platforms. Consisting of semiconductor system chips, software and a product development kit, it can reduce BOM product cost to about $30.

"The handset of the X125 platform allows the use of cheaper NAND memory," Polz explained. The platform also makes downloading CD-quality music in entry-level cellphones faster and easier, with sound quality comparable with other portable music players. Polz is positive that mobile phones "will be able to substitute the music players as the quality becomes better," pointing out that people are using the popular music player brands because of the audio quality.

To help bring the costs down of cellphones, Agere developed platforms with high levels of integration to reduce BOM costs for both high-end and entry-level handsets.

For high-end phones, on the other hand, Agere is offering its Vision X115 chipset platform. Consisting of semiconductor chips, multimedia software and protocol stack software, the X115 also has a high level of integration. Agere claims that the platform can reduce IC BOM costs and footprint size by up to 20 percent.

Asia's potential
Agere is presently working with customers all around the world on the development and roll-out of 3G handsets. Last October, China-based Amoi Electronics Co. Ltd has started shipping smart and feature phones with the X115 chipset platform.

Polz is confident that China will be one of the big markets for 3G. He pointed out that the region is already a big market for 2G.

"Around the world, 3G is happening," Polz said. "And by the time [3G] licenses in China are issued and 3G is deployed, I guess the Chinese people will get more mature products from the market compared with the early adopters who had to go through all the pains of new standards and infrastructures."

Just like in other regions, Polz sees voice as the main service in China and rest of Asia. He also sees data services, such as text messaging, access to the Internet, email and corporate networks, increasing. Polz added that he finds video services very interesting.

"Some countries have high adoption rates in video," Polz observed. However, adoption rate of this service is dependent on people's mentality and the service providers, he said. But he observed that "Korea has excellent coverage with video broadcast."

- Maria Cecilia Carpena
Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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