Sun, 06 Feb 2000

The latest generation of mobiles

JAKARTA (JP): Starting your car engine or turning down the volume of your radio with your cellular phone? Very soon you will be able to do it. Mobile phone makers have been moving into the next generation of technology with the introduction of various types of wireless communications over the past two decades.

Wireless communications products will be equipped with the so- called blue-tooth system, creating cellular phones that operate just like a remote control. Blue-tooth products also offer quick and reliable data and audio exchange with other blue-tooth- adapted devices.

This is the age of ease, or laziness, depending on your point of view, where value-added features are created to spoil humans.

These value-added features then become significant weapons in the war to grab loyal cellular users. This will be particularly true in the planned generation of convergence, which will result in cellular phones with much greater possibilities.

The current generation of cellular phone systems include GSM, AMPS and CDMA, and the next generation of wireless technology will include devices which will work in two gigahertz.

Future wireless systems will provide users not only voice, text and audio features, but also high-quality images and video in the wideband frequency. This will include interactive news delivery (voice, video, e-mail, graphics), interactive audio, Internet games and video conferencing with file transfer capability.

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), is now the definitive worldwide standard for wireless communications.

The GSM Association claims that there are now a quarter of a billion GSM users in the world.

"In 1992, there were just 250,000 GSM users in the world. Now that market has increased a thousand times to reach 250 million -- which means one in every 25 people in the world have a GSM phone. And yet the pace of growth continues to increase dramatically," says Michael Stocks, chairman of the GSM Association.


GSM technology evolved from GSM 900 (working in 900 megahertz), to GSM 1800 (1.8 gigahertz), to WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), to GPRS (General Package Radio Service), to EDGE (Enhanced Data-rates for GSM Evolution) and finally -- for the time being -- to UMTS (the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), also known as 3G.

3G is the generic term used for the next generation of mobile communications systems. 3G systems will provide enhanced services for those services currently available today, such as voice, text and data. UMTS is part of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)'s IMT-2000 vision of a global family of third- generation mobile communications systems.

The technology for 3G systems and services are currently under development across the industry.

IMT-2000 is the term used by the ITU as the specification for 3G services, based upon a "family" of compatible standards, of which a GSM-based evolution is set to be the most widespread.

Third generation mobile technology will not only deliver a wide variety of wireless services, it will also herald a new era of services that combine high-speed mobile access with Mobile Multimedia and Internet Protocol-based services.


There is no question that cellular phone manufacturers must follow this technology evolution, in addition to creating colorful features for their handsets.

South Korea's Samsung, for example, has come out with the Watch Phone, Wireless Internet Phone and the MP3 Phone in order to satisfy customers' demands. Samsung handsets are known for their innovative features and functions, including voice dialing and command, vibration alert, personalized ring, eight types of games and a personal organizer. Some of the handsets also have a built-in answering machine that enables users to listen to messages on their phone without having to contact an operator.

Samsung will launch six new products in 2000, including the SGH-2400, SGH-A100, SGH-2500 and SGH-A200.

Telecommunications giant Ericsson has also introduced several new handsets. One of them is the R250s PRO, which boasts several innovations, including waterproofing.

Ericsson Indonesia director Susanto Sosilo said Ericsson was also set to launch eight new products.

Nokia just launched the N-7110 which is based on wireless application protocol and the N-8210.

Alcatel said they would launch a product next month which would be the world's first handset employing WAP.

Fery Wiraatmadja of Alcatel said the company would also introduce several new products to Indonesia.

Husni Erwinn of Motorola said they would launch a Motorola V series next month with some new features.

Farid Manan of PT Dian Graha Elektrika, Siemens' sole agent in Indonesia, said Siemens would also launch new handsets using the WAP system.

Lighter, smaller, cuter, smarter, longer-lasting lithium batteries and multiband and other features are generally what users are now looking for in cellular phones.

The annual CeBIT exhibition in Hanover, Germany, later this month will be the spot for handset manufacturers to display their newest innovations. Unfortunately, some cellular phone makers are not willing to discuss exactly what they will unveil at the exhibition.

Mass production

Indonesia is one of the most attractive markets in the world for cellular phone manufacturers. A big plus for these manufacturers is that Indonesian consumers are known in the industry for their snobbishness and desire to one-up their acquaintances.

Fery said cellular phone users in Indonesia always wanted the latest product.

"This is a kind of emotional response rather than a rational one," he said.

But in following the technological evolution in the industry, consumers are expected to become more rational.

It is true that due to privilege and image, many users do not really want what they get in their cellular phones. Many do not know how to operate the Short Messaging Service on their cell phones, for instance, but still their handsets must be the newest and most sophisticated on the market.

Some handset makers divide Indonesian consumers into several segments, but the market trend shows that cellular phones will become a lifestyle necessity for most.

"People may use different types or brands of handsets during weekdays and weekends, just like their cars," says Erwinn, adding that it is hard to find loyal customers in Indonesia.

There are some two million cellular phone users in Indonesia, and this figure is estimated to grow to three million by the end of this year.

Since the local market is considered "snobbish", the mass production and marketing of cellular phones generally takes place outside of the country.

As a result, many times people discover their sophisticated handsets have some minor problems, usually associated with the high-tech aspects of the phones. Users are then wont to become upset when they realize the time which will be required to repair even minor defects in their handsets.(I. Christianto)