Italian telecoms firm to develop phone handsets

One of Europe's biggest fixed-network operators has joined calls for a greater say in the design and service features of cordless...

One of Europe's biggest fixed-network operators has joined calls for a greater say in the design and service features of cordless phones and other domestic wireless devices.

Phones, smart phones, videophones and wireless devices, including WLan PDAs, will be "absolutely crucial to the success of our services and will help drive our growth," said Riccardo Ruggiero, chief executive of Telecom Italia, at the Broadband World Forum in Venice.

With its Live multimedia service launched nearly two years ago, Vodafone sent a signal to handset suppliers that it intended to have more say in the look and feel of handsets, including slapping its own brand on both the hardware and software.

Since then, other European mobile operators, including Orange and T-Mobile , have also tweaked their relationships with handset suppliers.

The move in Europe to have more say in the technical features of phones mirrors the model in Japan, where operators such as NTT DoCoMo have been telling suppliers what they want to see in handsets for some time.

In addition to phones, the Italian operator aims to supply other products to home and small-office users, such as gateway systems to connect home wire-based or wireless Lans and entertainment systems.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the company plans to launch a range of products and services targeting the digital home market, Ruggiero said.

The keen interest in devices, especially in the home gateway, makes sense, according Anton Schaaf, a member of the group board at the information and communication network division of Siemens.

"If operators only deliver the pipe into the home, they're not in control of any of the TV and PC services at the other end," he said. "To deliver services they can control and later bill for, they really need to have home gateway systems in their product portfolios."

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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