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Operators and handset vendors plug standard charger

Micro USB chargers should save some green

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MWC An alliance of operators and handset manufacturers has blown a substantial hole in the mobile accessories market by agreeing on a standard power charger for mobile phones.

Orange, Telefonica, Vodafone, 3, AT&T, mobilkom Austria, T-Mobile, Telenor Telstra, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson have agreed a micro USB standard for all mobile phones.

The scheme to implement the obvious has been led by the GSM Association. It was sealed last Friday and was announced by Rob Conway of the GSMA this morning. He billed it as a green, cost-reducing plan because the emphasis of his speech was how mobile telecoms is the global economic saviour.

The pitch is to produce a standard compliant charger which will power future generations of phones. This will allow manufacturers to ship phones without a charger, and mean that other people's chargers will charge your phone if you are caught short.

It’s not the first time micro USB has been proposed as a universal mobile charger. The GSMA announcement piggybacks an OMTP recommendation. OMTP is a talking-shop for operators who want to undermine the differentiation of handsets and so tilt the loyalty of consumers away from handsets.

Having failed to establish a standard OS with the un-mourned SavaJe, OMTP went for the charger which was always bound to be popular and give OMTP credibility. This was in turn riding on a Chinese government mandate in 2006.

The last two attempts having obviously failed, Rob Conway didn’t say when the certified compatible charger will appear but he did say that the GSMA has set a target for 50 per cent of phones shipped in 2012 to use this charger.

This might prove tough. Higher data speeds, for instance the ability to capture hi-def video on a mobile, will need a better connector than micro USB. This can be solved with two connectors.

A tougher issue is the need for ultra low cost handsets, where every cent matters, to move to something more expensive than a barrel connector to meet the new mandate. These alone might account for more than five per cent of the phones sold in 2012, which makes the GSMA aim a challenge. ®

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