Nokia partners for HK e-commerce initiatives

Two recent moves by Nokia in Hong Kong demonstrate the company's interest in promoting m-commerce locally, but now that they've built it, will anyone come?

That was the lingering question over the April 11 launch of a new m-commerce solution which also featured the Hong Kong debut of Nokia's 6510 mobile handset. In partnership with HKC International Holdings Ltd., the Finnish mobile company also debuted a wallet function available on the 6510 and other Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled phones that allows for secure mobile purchasing of items such as movie tickets and compact discs.

In early April, Nokia also rolled out a special cover for its 3310 and 3330 handsets integrated with the Octopus electronic payment system. Users with the cover can employ it in the same manner as an Octopus card, and add value to the cover in many of the same places, such as MTR Corp. service counters and 7-Eleven convenience stores.

General Manager of Nokia (Hong Kong) Ltd. Timo Toikkanen said that despite initial consumer apathy towards WAP, "[Nokia] are believers in WAP and WAP is a big part of our future." Franky Leung, Nokia's product marketing and business development manager, Hong Kong and Macau, added that unlike other mobile operating systems, WAP is an open-standard.

Offerings for the new Nokia/HKC system are carrier-specific. Mobile service providers must decide which services they will offer, if any, and which merchants to cooperate with.

Toikkanen said that despite Nokia's support of WAP, it is technology-agnostic. "We would never try to convince the public of one technology or another," he said.

Spreading tentacles

Of the Octopus cover, Toikkanen said that part of the move was to create a working relationship with Octopus and to allow each side to understand the other's technology. He did not disclose any plans for further handset cover roll-outs, stating that market reaction to the first cover will determine its availability for other phones.

He described Hong Kong as a market where Nokia alone could not launch projects such as this, hence their decision to work with local partners. Toikkanen pointed to a "high caliber finance industry" and "state of the art thinking and infrastructure" as reasons why projects such as these could succeed specifically in Hong Kong.

However, he conceded that m-commerce in Hong Kong was at the "very initial stage," and that the mass market would need to see three things-ease of use; confidence in security, and special offerings and merchants-in order to begin adopting m-commerce on a large scale.

"None of these were there until now," Toikkanen said.

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