Eight of the world's largest cellular network operators have formally started work today on open handset recommendations that hardware vendors like Nokia and Sony Ericsson will be expected to meet.

The group, first mooted in April, includes mmO2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Telefonica of Spain, Telecom Italia Mobile of Italy, Japan's NTT DoCoMo and the Philippines' Smart Communications. It will be called OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform).

OMTP intends to define common platform requirements for handsets for 2.5G and beyond, so carriers can deliver standard applications across many different handsets. The specification will also allow enough room for the carrier to add some level of customisation, it said in a statement. The specifications, when published, will be free and not subject to licence fees.

However, we note with some concern that the organsation's website makes no mention of a roadmap, so what it plans to achieve and in what timeframe remains a mystery. You can't ask the organisation either as its contact Web form informs you that the "service is coming soon". Not the most auspicious start.

The group denies that it is a new standards body and says in a FAQ that it will not seek to create new standards but will produce recommendations relating to current standards or support the development of new standards by existing bodies. The information on the website is careful to avoid suggestions that this is an attempt to influence handset vendors, although it is comes at a time when some are eyeing Nokia's likely takeover of Symbian with suspicion.

As well as the eight founders, other carriers are queuing up to join, said NTT DoCoMo, including Spain's Amena, Norway's Telenor, the Netherlands' KPN Mobile, Austria's One, France's Société Française du Radiotéléphone SA (SFR) and Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa.

Membership is open to any mobile operator and annual dues have been set at €100,000. Other companies can become sponsors for the same price, although they will not get a vote in group meetings, and there are other cheaper membership options available.