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Mobile operators push 3G wireless

Group of mobile operators approves initiative to spur adoption of 3G multimedia, mobile Net in the developing world.

A global trade association for mobile operators has approved a new program called "3G for all" that could help bring third-generation multimedia services and mobile Internet access to more people in developing countries.

Already more than 72 million people use third-generation, or 3G, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology. But members of the GSM Association (GSMA) said Monday that they want to see this number grow and include people in poor regions of the world.

Through the "3G for all" program, the GSMA plans to establish a core set of common requirements for 3G handsets over the next few months in an effort to help mobile phone suppliers rapidly bring down the cost of manufacturing phones.

"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," Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, said in a statement.

The program is expected to encourage cell phone suppliers to compete to design 3G handsets that meet the mobile operators' common requirements. The GSMA will endorse the winning handset, which will be widely deployed by mobile operators participating in the program.

More details of the initiative, which is sponsored by the Hutchison Group, will be announced at the 3GSM World Congress Asia in Singapore in October.

The initiative builds on the success of the GSMA's Emerging Market Handset program, which created a new segment of ultra low-cost phones with wholesale prices of less than $30 for entry-level handsets. The availability of such low-cost handsets has enabled millions of people in more than 56 countries to begin using telecommunications for the first time, the GSMA said.

"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," Conway said in the statement.

In total, there are more than 2 billion GSM mobile phone users worldwide, with new consumers signing up at a rate of 1,000 per minute for services that include both second-generation GSM, as well as third-generation GSM services, the group said. GSM has added 1 billion users in just 30 months, largely by signing up new users in developing countries.