By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS -Home and SOHO phone suppliers will expand their 2.4GHz cordless selections but won't drop the 900MHz ball at CES.
Companies such as Panasonic, Toshiba and Southwestern Bell plan to expand their 2.4GHz cordless lines, and Thomson and Sony plan to make their first forays into the spectrum. (See p. 106.)
"I think 2.4GHz will drive a lot of the cordless business this year," said Toshiba product marketing manager Mark Balinski. "Most manufacturers now offer something in the frequency, prices are coming down, and consumers are learning the benefits. 900MHz analog will continue to dominate, but we're going to see the real growth in 2.4GHz this year."
In diversifying into 2.4GHz, Thomson product manager Eldon Chuck said the company wants to "show the consumer the next logical step." Nonetheless, he said, Thomson "still believes in the value offered in 900MHz analog, and the market doesn't seem to be in a hurry to move away from it."
Chuck estimates that in 2002, with the price of 2.4GHz phones dropping and consumer awareness rising, 2.4GHz and 900MHz phones will reach unit-sales parity.
"As 2.4GHz come down in price and hit the lower-priced retailers-the Targets and Costcos-consumers on a large scale will begin to understand the benefits," said Uniden product manager Stacy Hamilton.
John McNenney, Panasonic's assistant general manager of telephones, said he likewise sees market movement toward 2.4GHz
"Right now, I expect 2000 unit sales in 900MHz to increase over 1999, but those numbers will be less than what they could have been, thanks to the emergence of 2.4GHz," he said. "There's still some confusion on the consumer end over the claims of 2.4GHz, and it's a real challenge to retailers to offer a coherent assortment as the offerings increase."
Although expanding their 2.4GHz selections, companies will also augment their 900MHz lines, given that market statistics clearly show cordless phones represent the lion's share of the land-line telecom market.
In that sphere, 900MHz analog phones dominate, garnering a 74.5 percent share of the cordless market in October 2000, according to NPD Intelect retail-level sales statistics.
In the 900MHz segments, dealers will find new models from Toshiba, Uniden and Southwestern Bell. (See p. 106.)
Suppliers will also focus on cordless phones with integrated caller ID and answering machines
"The trend is firmly toward integration," said NPD analyst Peter Arato. "We've seen a steady decline in the sale of stand-alone peripheral devices like caller ID and answering machines. Most manufacturers offer integrated models, that's truly where the market share is."
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