Mobile phone operators are set to introduce handsets capable of making secure electronic cash payments over the GSM network within the next few months.
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Maosco, the consortium driving development of the Multos smartcard software, has created a version of the operating system that can run on Sim cards already used to identify users to phone networks.
Developed in conjunction with mobEcom, the Securesim card has been designed to offer mobile phone users a way to perform secure financial transactions and can be plugged into existing phone handsets.
Nick Habgood, chief executive at Maosco, said, "Mobile phone Sim cards are very proprietary today and only support one application - the GSM network access application."
To run more than one application on a Sim card requires cards with more memory. This summer 32Kbyte Sim cards are due to be available.
Habgood said that the digital signature technology available on Securesim will allow users to receive new applications for their phones. One of the possibilities, he explained, was the ability to store a credit card number securely on the phone's Sim, thus enabling a mobile phone user to make secure payments.
Other applications that could be made available with the new technology could include pay-as-you-go phone calls, where the phone could top up call credits automatically by debiting its owner's credit card, and the ability to store e-cash.
However, Ovum analyst Duncan Brown warned that it would take a long time to deliver many of the expectations of mobile commerce. For instance, Brown pointed out that streaming video and music could not operate on technology currently available because data speeds are too slow.
Brown added that the technology many expected to deliver e-commerce to mobile phones - Wireless Application Protocol - had glaring holes, particularly in its security model, that require a PKI.