The GSM Association, the industry organization for manufacturers of the most widely-used variety of mobile phones, wants to get mobile phones into the hands of the three billion or so people who live in areas covered by GSM networks, but who don’t have a phone of any kind. Cost is the main barrier — the cost of the service, local taxes, and cost of the unit itself. The GSMA intends to tackle all three, but their first initiative is the one over which they have the most control: the cost of the phone hardware.
The Emerging Markets Handset program asked 18 different phone vendors to submit designs for phones with an end-user cost of under $40, with a longer term goal of sub-$30 (this in comparison to typical cost at present of close to $100). The GSMA chose the Motorola C114 platform as its reference phone; Motorola will begin production this Spring. The initial production target is six million handsets in the first six months, ramping up from there as production efficiencies allow for even lower phone prices.