US$10 handset on the cards

It may be wishful thinking now but a US$10 cell phone is definitely in the minds of researchers at Berkeley 's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).

According to a recent report in the US edition of Electronic Engineering Times an official at Berkeley confirmed the project after reports emerged saying CITRIS was exploring the feasibility of such a phone. Discussions have taken place with several Taiwanese contract manufacturing companies including Hon Hai Precision Industry, Compal Communications and Quanta Computer.

Quanta is the lead manufacturer for the One Laptop Per Child initiative (see $100 Laptops to reach 6 Countries in 2007) so clearly has some experience in the field of low cost manufacture. 

"The idea of a US$10 cell phone is a visionary part of a long-range goal in CITRIS to take low-cost internet connection technology to emerging regions of the world," said Gary Baldwin, executive director of CITRIS. "We have had some discussions regarding low-cost manufacturing, but this is very much in the formative stages, and we are years away from turning our research to practice."  

There are already a number of low cost handsets on the market. The GSM Association sponsored an initiative for ultra low cost handsets, which resulted in products targeted for Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Some second and third tier manufacturers in China have taken the single-chip devices that came out of this effort and developed handsets that sell for about $50-$75. Motorola launched its Motofone in India recently, but some reports indicate it has not done well. Motorola, however, says the phone is meeting its sales forecasts.

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