ITU - Consumer products remain rare

If you had come to the Telecom World 2003 conference and exhibition in Geneva in search of innovative gizmos and gadgets, you would have been disappointed. Of course, you could argue that the show, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has never been a venue for consumer IT products like CeBIT.

Still, if there were ever an opportunity for device makers to fill a gap created by the no-show of some of the telecom sector's biggest equipment manufacturers in Geneva, it would have been this week. Even the Asian vendors, which had come en masse to showcase their products to a predominately European audience, failed to generate a buzz.

In what turned out to be a trickle of new product announcements instead of a flood, there were a few items of interest.

NEC showed a prototype mobile phone equipped with a receiver for terrestrial television broadcasting. The phone, designed to take advantage of digital TV broadcasting services, will allow users not only to view programs but also interact with them.

In Geneva, NEC showcased its newest 3G (third generation) broadband mobile handset, the e616, based on the company's first-ever 3G terminal, the e606. A new feature of the e616 smart phone is integrated GPS (Global Positioning System) for enhanced location-enabled services.

On Thursday, NEC said it will start delivery in October of the e616 and new versions of its e808 devices with QWERTY keyboards to Hutchison 3G UK, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa. The wireless unit, which goes by the "3" brand name, was the first to launch commercial 3G service in Europe.

Panasonic Mobile Communications, a unit of Matsushita Electric Industrial, introduced its newest digital camera phone, the X70. The clamshell-format phone features a 65,536 color TFT (thin film transistor) display and an integrated camera with Photo Light technology, which offers assistance to users when taking pictures in dark places. The phone, measuring 87 millimeters by 47 millimeters by 23.9 millimeters, is 20 percent smaller than its predecessor, the GD87.

Panasonic also demonstrated several wireless and wired advanced communication systems running on IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) technology. Its IFAX system is the world's first fax system combing ENUM (tElephone NUmber Mapping) and IPv6 technologies, making it possible to send and receive large, detailed images at high speeds, according to the company.

NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese mobile operator, demonstrated a mobile phone equipped with technology for contactless payments. Users place the phone on an electronic pad to complete a transaction. Billing data is exchanged via a wireless link between the two devices, with the amount billed to the phone bill. The carrier aims to introduce the technology in Japan next year.

Advanced Recognition Technologies (ART) displayed several products using its voice-recognition technology, including a miniature phone without any keys, roughly the diameter of a golf ball. The company also displayed a prototype device with its "speaker independent technology," allowing users to immediately use the device without having to train it to recognize the sound of their voice.

Gemplus International introduced a gadget that allows users to transfer and adapt their SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) data configured for a specific mobile phone to another, without having to wade through manuals or call service centers to learn more about the new phone's features.

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John Blau

IDG News Service
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