Fifteen companies form Asian mobile e-services group

Fifteen organisations drawn from financial institutions, mobile phone manufacturers, smart card vendors, telecommunications carriers, postal companies and universities have formed an alliance to offer a wide range of electronic services through smart card-enabled mobile phones, beginning next year.

The Asia Mobile Electronic Services Alliance (AMESA) aims to give customers access to mobile electronic services through a cellular phone fitted with a multi-function smart bank card, based on Visa International's Open Platform specification and using PKI (public key infrastructure) technology, according to Standard Chartered Bank PLC, which announced the alliance on Monday.

Applications include banking, electronic commerce, bill payments, trading and information gathering via mobile phones, and the alliance hopes to attract 500,000 users within three years, Standard Chartered said.

The scheme will be rolled out in the second half of next year in Hong Kong and Singapore, the two Asian cities with the best infrastructure and financial services, according to Standard Chartered. In future, other companies from industry sectors such as airlines, ticketing firms and retailers may join the alliance, which will also be extended to other countries in Asia when their level of infrastructure development is suitable, Standard Chartered said.

One of the aims of the multi-million US dollar project is to extend the reach of e-commerce by adding a new set of users who may not have access to the Internet via a PC, but are conversant with mobile phones, Standard Chartered said.

Singapore and Hong Kong have some of the highest mobile phone penetration rates in the world. More than one million of Singapore's three million citizens now have a mobile phone, according to government regulatory body the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore. This compares with 426,800 registered Internet subscribers in the country.

The partners in AMESA are: Standard Chartered Bank and Visa to provide financial services and Visa's Open Platform; L.M. Ericsson Telephone, Motorola and Nokia for AMESA-compliant mobile phones; Gemplus Technologies and Microsoft to provide smart cards and related software; Hong Kong Post and Singapore Post to provide electronic identification services; SingNet, SingTel Mobile and SmarTone Mobile Communications to operate mobile phone and Internet networks; and the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the Open University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore.

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