Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp is entering the European mobile handset market via an agreement to produce exclusive-model phones for Vodafone Group Plc, one of the largest multinational mobile operators with some 150 million subscribers.
A spokesperson for the Tokyo-based company said it has been in the mobile phone business for some 15 years, but almost only in Asia, primarily Japan, where three of the four operators are customers, namely KDDI, Vodafone Japan, and TuKa, though not market leader NTT DoCoMo. It also has some presence in Europe under the AudioVox brand.
As such, it has been producing for a different radio access technology from Europe's GSM standard, PDC and CDMA, but 3G, which unifies Europe and Japan in the W-CDMA standard, represents a window of opportunity for entry. We can now bring our core competencies in Bluetooth, miniaturization, MPEG4, chipset development, and color screen design to bear in Europe, the spokesperson said.
The agreement with Vodafone will see Toshiba develop co-branded 3G phones on which the Vodafone logo will be the more prominent, in line with the operators desire to own the relationship with the subscriber even to the degree that their phone choice is by carrier rather than manufacturer. This has led to problems with European manufacturers, which have their own strong brand to defend and have objected to playing second fiddle to Vodafone, which at one stage even sought to buy phones carrying only its brand.
A spokesperson for Vodafone said this is the second such exclusivity agreement the carrier has signed. There is an ongoing relationship with another Japanese vendor, Sharp, which started with the Vodafone live! service in 2.5G and has so far resulted in three handsets from the manufacturer. At the CeBIT show in Germany, Vodafone and Toshiba are exhibiting the first product resulting from the agreement, the TS921, a midrange 3G phone. (Yahoo News, ComputerWire)
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