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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

The managing director of Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) has urged equipment manufacturers to meet the technology demands of operators to maximize opportunities for the GSM community.

TIM's Mauro Sentinelli made the plea at the 47th plenary meeting of the GSM Association (GSM-A) in Rome, Italy yesterday. Sentinelli said both GSM handset manufacturers and infrastructure vendors had a crucial role to play in maintaining consumer momentum for GSM services now that higher-speed, packet-based overlays such as GPRS and EDGE designed with data services in mind are becoming more widespread.

Most specifically, Sentinelli called on handset vendors to speed up introduction of devices with built-in cameras, color screens and greater memory for running more complex applications - he suggests around 3Kb rather than the 160 bytes more common today.

Sentinelli said these were crucial technologies for persuading consumers to migrate to the next generation of communication after voice and text; namely pictures. He also appealed to infrastructure vendors to help make interoperability of all GSM-based networks a reality, as well as providing integration with future UMTS networks.

"Manufacturers have different goals [to operators]," he said, "but if we fragment the market and services, we infringe the GSM services paradigm of end-to-end interoperability."

On the face of it, the GSM community appears to have little to worry about. Latest figures released by the GSM-A at the meeting report that three-quarters of a billion people - one in nine of the entire world population - now owns a GSM handset. 167 million new customers have been signed up in the last 12 months, while China is now the biggest GSM market with some 160 million users.

Use of data services, or more specifically SMS text messaging over GSM networks also continues to sky rocket. The Association said that 75 billion messages were sent in the first quarter of 2002, a 50% increase over 2001. The total forecast for 2002 has now been set at 360 billion.

However, the GSM operators themselves appear to have taken Sentinelli's sentiments to heart. Alongside the plenary meeting, some 80 operators have been taking part in a "Roam Fest" to firm up their own roaming agreements for GPRS. Discussions between CEOs and CTOs of mobile operators are now commonplace, he said.

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