A government panel began considering ways Wednesday to strengthen the international competitiveness of the domestic mobile phone industry as the country’s 11 handset makers together account for only 10 percent of the global market.

The body of academics and industrial representatives was set up at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

Members also discussed plans to unify specifications of cell phone battery chargers and to widen application of the portable phones in tourism and medical services, METI officials said.

Japanese cell phones are not competitive in the world market because they adopt communication systems different from the mainstream European method for second-generation phones.

Their concentration on sophisticated features, including music download services, and the high handset prices also run counter to the global trend toward low-priced phones with simpler functions. Some panel members said Japanese cell phone makers should target the emerging third-generation market in other countries, as the same communication systems as Japan’s are adopted for 3G phones capable of high-speed data transmission.

Other members suggested that Japanese companies strengthen alliances with mobile phone carriers overseas and strive to spread the Japanese mobile phone culture featuring advanced functions. As for the unification of battery charger specifications, industrial bodies of the Communications and Information Network Association of Japan and the Telecommunications Carriers Association aim to standardize sockets and charger plugs for the upcoming fourth-generation phones by around 2010, they said.

The officials said the government is planning to support training of software developers to enrich mobile phone contents and to aid experiments of cell phone use in guiding tourists and in offering remote medical care.

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