Trium Telecom, a France-based handset maker owned by Japanese technology giant Mitsubishi Electric, has made a belated entry to the highly competitive handset market in Hong Kong with the launch of its mobile-phone brand Trium. Trium Telecom Asia Pacific set up its regional headquarters in Singapore late last year and has since introduced the Trium brand to Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Norio Miyazawa, managing director of Trium Asia Pacific, said: 'Hong Kong is an exciting market for us in many aspects. With a mature mobile communication populace, the country will be a key in testing and refining our strategies for growth in North Asia, especially in the Chinese markets. 'Also, we are confident that our mobile phones will find appeal among sophisticated Hong Kong consumers.' He said Hong Kong would be the springboard to the mainland market, which uses a variety of networks including GSM (global system for mobile communications) and TDMA (time division multiple access). The company's Trium series of GSM and GPRS (general packet radio services) mobile phones have been available in Hong Kong through the grey market. All five phones launched last week were available ahead of the official launch in some handset shops, which had imported them from Europe. Company officials said a direct presence in Hong Kong would mean better support and faster access to new products. The five new mobile phones are Trium Eclipse, Mondo, Mars, Neptune and Cosmo. The GPRS Eclipse probably will compete with Ericsson's T68, due to its features and colour display. The Mondo, a smart phone running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, has been available in Hong Kong since the middle of last year. Mr Miyazawa described the Mystral, which will be launched this year, as a polyphonic ring-tone phone. A polyphonic phone carries a sound chip capable of downloading and playing multiple ring tones. Eventually, all mobile phones may be capable of playing encoded music files - such as MP3 and advanced audio coding formats - as ring tones. In the meantime, polyphonic mobile phones with their Midi-type (musical instrument digital interface) quality are expected to become the standard this year. These phones also are capable of playing more instruments simultaneously and have better speakers. A ringing-tone download service is expected to be a substantial revenue generator for mobile operators. Several South Korean and Japanese phone makers launched polyphonic ring-tone phones last year. Mr Miyazawa said Trium's experience in the advanced wireless environment in Japan would help it take market share from Nokia, Sony-Ericsson and Motorola, which dominate most Asian GSM markets. Trium also faces tough competition from second-tier mobile phone manufacturers Siemens and Samsung, which compete mainly on price. In the PDA-phone (personal digital assistant) niche market, Trium is competing with an increasing number of players, including Nokia's 9210, Sagem's WA3050, Handspring's Treo plus new Pocket PCs from Casio, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. According to International Data Corp (IDC), while there is an opportunity in the replacement handset market for GPRS handsets, not many have connected to GPRS services. In Hong Kong, IDC estimates less than 30,000 phone users subscribe to GPRS services. Mr Miyazawa said there was a lot of potential in developing markets in Malaysia and the Philippines, where there was high mobile-phone usage while penetration rates had not reached saturation levels as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. He hoped Trium would become the third-largest handset provider in the Philippines with a 10 per cent market share within two years. 'The Philippine market is very important because it is already used to exchanging data over the cellular network,' he said. An estimated 180 million text-based messages through short messaging system technology are sent in the Philippines every day. 'Within five years, we are targeting a 15 per cent share of the GPRS and UMTS [universal mobile telecommunications systems] handset markets worldwide,' Mr Miyazawa said.