Bangalore: Telecom equipment maker Kyocera Wireless Corp. is in talks with Virgin Mobile USA Llc. to supply made-for-India phones to the company, which is looking to enter one of the world’s fastest growing markets for mobile services in partnership with telco Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL).
“At this stage, we are in preliminary discussions with Virgin Mobile to be their supplier for CDMA handsets for India. Virgin wants to show CDMA can be a cool phone in India given that GSM is more popular here,” said Rodney N. Lanthorne, president and chairman of Kyocera Wireless Corp.
Global system for mobile communications, or GSM, and code division multiple access, or CDMA, are competing wireless technologies.
India has 172 million subscribers on GSM networks and 57 million subscribers on CDMA ones as of end-December, according to telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai.
Robert Samuelson, executive director (telecom and media), Virgin Group, declined to comment on the details “at this time”.
Kyocera Wireless (India) Pvt. Ltd, the Indian unit of the South Korean firm, is identifying India-specific features for Virgin Mobile’s offering here. Kyocera India is engaged in the development of CDMA phones, biometric sensors, base stations, dual-mode handsets supporting Wi-Fi and CDMA networks, and wireless broadband. In the US, Virgin Mobile is Kyocera’s largest customer for phones.
Kyocera is looking at various India-specific modifications to its popular phone model M1000, including adding removable user identity module capabilities that allow contact lists, contact information and text messages to be easily transferred between phones, said Lanthorne.
The company also intends to add FM radio capability to the phone, keeping in mind the popularity of music among Indians.
Kyocera has sold 2.3 million phones in India over the last three years through telcos TTSL, Reliance Communications Ltd, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
Samartha Nagabhushanam, managing director, Kyocera Wireless India, said that the challenges involved in creating a phone for the country include creating “multi-language support both in terms of keypad design and software support”.
“The market here is entertainment-centric, with FM music and film music being the favourites. We also (have to) bear in mind the cost challenge for entry-level and mid-level segment of users,” Nagabhushanam added.
Kyocera’s engineering arm in India has developed two India-centric phones for TTSL, with local language support and user-friendly keypads. This unit has applied for 37 patents over the last five years, one of which is a patent for optimized user interface for Hindi language support on CDMA phones. Kyocera expects to add 300 more employees to its current workforce of 580 here.
Other phone makers such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. are also working on India-centric features on phones. Motorola India Research Labs is working on creating batteries that can use hydrogen as fuel and remain charged for almost a week.