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NEC, Matsushita join for 3G

Another pair of electronics-making heavyweights are pooling their resources to tackle the expense of developing a 3G cell phone.

Another pair of electronics-making heavyweights are pooling their resources to tackle the expense of developing a 3G cell phone.

On Tuesday, Matsushita Electric Industrial, the cell phone-making arm of Panasonic, and NEC announced plans to codevelop a next-generation phone.

The alliance is part of a growing trend among electronics giants, many of which are deciding to find partners rather than go solo into the costly world of 3G cell phone development.

"It has reached the point that the strength of one company isn't going to be enough," Matsushita President Kunio Makamura told a gathering of reporters in Japan.

Third-generation systems are expected to offer always-on cell phones running on networks that deliver voice calls or Internetlike applications at broadband speeds.

Analysts and industry insiders say these companies are banking on strength in numbers to manage the high cost of developing handsets that feature advanced capabilities such as downloading videos or MP3 music files.

Others partnerships include Ericsson and Sony, which are merging their handset-making divisions. In addition, Toshiba and Siemens of Germany have been codeveloping plans similar to those of Matsushita and NEC.

The latest Matsushita-NEC agreement does not involve the actual production of handsets, however. Instead, the companies have agreed to share cell phone design specifications and together develop software programs for phones, according to a statement.

The phones the companies will develop are expected to run on networks using W-CDMA, or wideband code division multiple access technology, the 3G standard used by many Japanese wireless providers.

American carrier AT&T Wireless plans to use W-CDMA in its next-generation phone network, expected to be online by next year. Verizon, which plans to use a competing standard, reportedly is being pressured by its parent company, Vodafone, to use a W-CDMA network.