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Forum Wants to Breathe New, Certifiable Life into Phones

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 6:46am
Monica Alleven

BARCELONA—A group of companies on Tuesday launched the Device Renewal Forum (DRF) dedicated to establishing a common certification for refurbished wireless phones around the world. Sprint Nextel, Brightstar Corp., eRecyclingCorps, ModusLink Global Solutions and the CDMA Development Group (CDG) are the first founding members, but they're leaving the door open for other entities to enlist as founders.

The goal, according to Perry LaForge, executive director of CDG and executive chairman of DRF, is to ensure that quality refurbished devices are in the marketplace. Forum executives who unveiled the effort at a roundtable at Mobile World Congress (MWC) said OEMs should be interested in it just by way of making sure their brands are well represented at the refurbished level.

The DRF says it intends to provide a global forum to address issues related to "renewing" wireless devices. Subcommittees will establish a "gold standard" for testing and certifying refurbished devices.

The group says it's technology agnostic and will work with but isn't limited to GSM, CDMA2000, EV-DO, HSPA and LTE.

But aren't efforts already under way by carriers and others to refurbish phones? Forum founders say yes, but there's no formal certification process. It's not something a lot of carriers spend time talking about, said Fared Adib, vice president of product development at Sprint.

David Edmondson, co-founder and CEO of eRecyclingCorps and a former RadioShack CEO during the meteoric rise of cellular, surmises that the industry grew fast and carriers and others were focused on certain segments of the value chain, leaving piles of used devices in the wake.

He and his company are trying to persuade consumers to take their old devices out of desk drawers and trade them in at carriers for something of value in return when they buy a new handset. He's preparing to relocate to Brussels in April to put together a team that will lead the firm's expansion into Europe.

DRF chose this week's MWC as its launch venue because of its global reach. More than 200 countries are represented at MWC.

The group is offering tiered participation plans. It's a non-profit, so dues are necessary to cover costs.

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