Roaming protocol set to boost m-commerce

Companies hoping to profit from mobile commerce will be boosted early next year, by the launch of an ambitious trial which aims...

Companies hoping to profit from mobile commerce will be boosted early next year, by the launch of an ambitious trial which aims to create a single m-commerce infrastructure across Europe.

The UK m-commerce market will be worth £2.8bn by 2005, according to Forrester Research, but progress has been held back by the lack of interoperability for global roaming and low levels of confidence due to the lack of a trusted infrastructure.

Mobile phones could be used to issue payments to vending machines, pay for rail tickets and help retailers to guide customers around their stores, but suppliers must meet technology challenges before public confidence can be won.

The Trusted Transaction Roaming (T2R) system, which will be managed by Radiccho, a not-for-profit organisation backed by companies such as Vodafone, Visa and BT, aims to pave the way for profitable m-commerce by creating a cross-industry platform for trusted wireless transactions.

T2R, which recently received the backing of the European Union, will help merchants and mobile operators to boost profits by allowing consumers to buy products and services across Europe using mobile phones, regardless of the network they subscribe to, said Stefan Engel-Flechsig, chief executive officer at Radiccho.

"The demand is there from customers but the challenge for us is to make these services as easy as possible to use," he said. "We are discussing trials for the first quarter of next year which will involve testing one or two user cases to prove the business case [for m-commerce services]. In 12 months we hope to have proved that the infrastructure will be generating serious business."

Radiccho is in discussion with a number of merchants and banks, as well as mobile operators, about how the m-commerce infrastructure can best benefit all the parties involved.

"It is important that we show co-operation for each participant, whether they be a mobile operator, merchant, bank or government body," said Engel-Flechsig. "We are making progress - in small steps - and the response so far has been positive."

The infrastructure will be based on a three-tiered security approach, said Engel-Flechsig. Micropayments - usually up to about £5 - will use a password for authentication, he said, while macropayments - of up to about £100 - will use public key infrastructure technology.

Any payments larger than that would involve some sort of encryption technology, Engel-Flechsig added.

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