The $15 mobile

government is getting into the mobile phone game, with the launch of a new handset, the Vergatario

Tags: Vetelca
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By  Mark Sutton Published  May 12, 2009

Venezuela's government is getting into the mobile phone game, with the launch of a new handset, the Vergatario. And in fitting with the aims of the socialist government, and president Hugo Chavez, the Vergatario is aimed at bringing mobile to the masses, with the low, low price point of just $15.

The government is subsidizing the handset, which at $15 is retailing at just one quarter of the manufacturing cost, but the authoritites say they are aiming to produce two million handsets per year by 2011.

The Vergatario, based on ZTE's C366 will come with a camera, games, WAP internet access, FM radio and MP3 and MP4 players and SMS support. It's being produced by the Venezuelan Telecommunications Factory, in which ZTE has a 15% stake with the remainder held by the government.

It's a pretty big subsidy to pay for the Venezuelan government to get its handset out there, especially given that with a mobile penetration rate of nearly 96% by late 2008, most Venezuelans seem to have got access to mobile phones without needing a dirt cheap option. The oil-rich country clearly has its eye on export to the surrounding region and other developing markets worldwide, but whether the $15 price tag survives the move to export, or whether its just a publicity stunt from Chavez, no stranger grandstanding, remains to be seen.

One big clue as to how serious the government is towards the project comes in the choice of the name 'El Vergatario' - which roughly means a certain part of the male anatomy...

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