HILDESHEIM, Germany - The Radio Phone from Robert Bosch's Blaupunkt subsidiary is one of the giant supplier group's most promising new electronics products.
The Radio Phone integrates the functions of a GSM mobile telephone with a standard car radio.
The key to it is the Subscriber Identity Module card found in every mobile GSM phone. Car owners simply take this card from their GSM phone and put it into their Radio Phone. The Radio Phone then operates as a hands-free phone, which uses the same phone number, call preferences and billing protocols as the driver's GSM phone.
The Radio Phone has huge potential. There are already 35 million GSM phones in use in 92 countries worldwide. In Scandinavia one in three people has a GSM phone. By 1999 up to 150 million GSM phones will be in use.
Many countries are now passing laws to stop people using hand-held phones while driving. That could boost the Radio Phone market.
However, Blaupunkt spokesman Achim Siedler is cautious about future sales of this 'entirely new marriage of products.' Blaupunkt expects to sell 100,000 Radio Phones in the first two years. By comparison, Blaupunkt sells four million conventional car radio systems a year.
The first Radio Phone, the TSM127 Amsterdam, goes on sale in Germany at the end of June, priced DM1,498 ($880).
During July and August the Amsterdam unit will be launched in most other markets that have GSM phone networks.
The Amsterdam is a mid-market unit, said Siedler. It incorporates an FM radio, cassette and controls for a separate remote CD autochanger,
A lower-priced model, the Helsinki, will be launched in the autumn at DM1,298. 'Eventually we will have many more models with phone technology,' Siedler said.
He refused to predict sales volumes for the Radio Phone market.
Blaupunkt has a lead of at least two years over its competitors, he said. The company has patented the unique technology - especially the complex systems that isolate the powerful 900MHz telephone transmitter from the sensitive radio receiver.