Cell phone users get taste of new models and cheaper tariffs

13th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Sleek, desirable designs at the cutting edge of the latest styles, all paraded on a glittering catwalk.

13 February 2008

BARCELONA - Sleek, desirable designs at the cutting edge of the latest styles, all paraded on a glittering catwalk. No, it's not the Cibeles Fashion Week in Madrid, but rather the 2008 Mobile World Conference, a Barcelona trade fair dedicated to cell phones that began on Monday and will conclude on Friday.

Among the stars of the show unveiled so far is a new Nokia model that incorporates a GPS system and in-built compass especially for pedestrians, and Sony Ericsson's whole new brand, called Xperia, which uses a Microsoft Windows-based system to enable the user to navigate around applications with ease as they would on a PC. The South Korean company LG has even shown off a piece of James Bond technology with a wristwatch that uses Bluetooth to make calls and send messages.

But apart from the latest innovations in handsets, there has been great news for consumers so far in terms of tariffs - particularly those charged to users when they travel in European countries other than their own.

One of the main aims of cell phone companies in the coming years will be to extend the data services they offer - an area that right now is limited mostly to text messaging. The boom in social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as video sites such as YouTube, will be the key to this, with companies scrambling to incorporate access to these pages via their handsets.

However, if the operators are to make such inroads into new areas, they'll have to make some concessions to Brussels first. The European Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, has given the companies an ultimatum: either they lower their tariffs for data transfers made with cell phones abroad before 1 July, or they'll face some very high penalties, as has already been the case with voice calls.

"Sending text messages or downloading data via cell phones in another country in the EU shouldn't be much more expensive for the consumer than doing so in their own home," said Reding after the meeting. "The high charges imposed by operators should disappear."

Currently, sending an SMS in Spain costs EUR 0.15. To do so abroad can cost anywhere between EUR 0.40 and EUR 1. Accessing the internet via a cell phone costs around EUR 50 a month; doing so from abroad costs closer to EUR 75.

Some companies have already announced measures to meet the demands, such as Vodafone. Spanish consumers will be waiting keenly to see if the biggest carrier, Telefónica, will do the same.

[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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