Mobile players agree on GPRS

Agreement between players in the m-commerce space was the most encouraging aspect of this year's 3GSM Congress, according to...

Agreement between players in the m-commerce space was the most encouraging aspect of this year's 3GSM Congress, according to industry analysts.

The annual conference for the mobile industry, which took place in Cannes last week, brought together handset manufacturers, network operators and service providers who showcased the latest mobile technology.

Software announcements dominated the conference, but most important for businesses was the general agreement that industry players should stick to what they do best, said Bernt Ostegaard, a director at analyst firm Giga.

"M-commerce has been plagued by disagreement between the players involved, whether they be the network operators, the handset companies, service providers or the banks," said Ostegaard. "They all had different forums with different priorities but now there is a general agreement that they should stick to what they do best - network operators will not try to be banks, for example."

The m-commerce industry can now move forward, and stop "wasting its time" with all the different forums, he added.

General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) - which give mobile phones always-on access to the Internet and corporate networks - was the main software focus at the show.

Ostegaard said GPRS was "coming together nicely". Companies looking at their m-commerce strategy will be particularly encouraged by the billing systems being introduced, he said.

For example, one company, Upaid Systems, has developed a billing system that network operators and content providers can use for real-time rating of transactions over GSM and GPRS networks. "Finally we are seeing GPRS-based billing systems," said Ostegaard. "Reverse billing via GSM [as with text messages] works fine for micropayments but up until now there has been no system to make larger payments via a mobile."

Ostegaard said the m-commerce market should develop some real momentum in 2002. "When payment systems are put in place that will not require the consumer to upgrade their phone the market will grow quickly," he said.

"Consumers are much more willing to pay for mobile services than they are for Internet services."

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