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Affordable handsets push 3G adoption in Asia

Posted: 16 Jan 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3G  Agere  3G phone  wireless  3G handset 

To receive Asia's warm welcome, 3G must have a makeover. Roman Polz, senior marketing manager at Agere's mobility division, believes that the 3G market should also offer affordable 3G handsets besides the high-end, feature-rich models to achieve faster and wider 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 3G adoption is the cost of additional 3G services.

Although it offers operators the advantages of infrastructure efficiency and the ability to serve a larger number of subscribers, 3G has been experiencing slow adoption 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. "The obstacle will come down as cheaper 3G handsets become available."

Furthermore, low-cost handsets "will help spread the capability and reach of 3G," said Polz. 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 low-cost handsets will generate huge savings for operators. "Having affordable handsets means operators will provide less subsidies, will need less money to recover their expenses, and then we shall also see lower tariff for specific 3G services," he explained.

Integration is key
To help bring cell phone costs down, Agere has developed platforms that reduce BOM costs for both high-end and entry-level handsets. In December, 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 Rs.1,359.60 ($30).

Designed for entry-level cell phones, X122 "has a very high level of integration," Polz said. It features an integrated speaker amplifier, CD quality stereo, polyphonic sound synthesiser, 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. Handsets with X122 are scheduled to be available commercially in 1H 2007.

Two months before X122's launch, Agere introduced TrueNTRY X125, the second chipset from its Vision architectural platforms. Consisting of semiconductor system chips, software and a product development kit, it reduces BOM cost to about Rs.1,359.60 ($30).

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

For high-end phones, on the other hand, Agere has developed the Vision X115 chipset platform. Consisting of semiconductor chips, multi-media software and protocol stack software, 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 per cent.

"Of course, Agere is working with its customers all around the world on the development and roll-out of 3G handsets," Polz said. Last October, China-based Amoi Electronics Company Ltd started shipping smart and feature phones with the X115 chipset platform.

Asia's potential
Polz is confident China will be one of the biggest markets for 3G. He pointed out that the region is already a major 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, people there 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 the rest of the world, Polz sees voice as the main service in China and the rest of Asia. He also sees data services, such as text messaging, access to the Internet, e-mail and corporate networks increasing.

"Some countries have high adoption rates in video," Polz observed. However, adoption rate is still dependent on people's mentality and the service providers, he said.

- Maria Cecilia Carpena
Electronic Engineering Times—Asia

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