Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola team on mobile IM

Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola on Thursday announced the creation of the Wireless Village initiative, a joint project established to define and promote a set of universal specifications for mobile instant messaging and presence services.

The technology will allow users to send instant messages and subscribe to additional services on various devices, such as cell phones, pagers, and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), the companies said in a joint statement. Millions already use instant messaging on PCs connected to the Internet.

The Wireless Village initiative, chaired by Nokia's Director of Messaging Frank Dawson, intends to deliver architectural, protocol, and test specifications and tools for instant messaging and presence services by the end of this year. The initiative is open to participation from the industry.

"We hope to grow a community that represents wireless and fixed players. This includes handset manufacturers, mobile operators, and service providers," said Dawson in an interview. America Online., today's instant messaging market leader with ICQ and AIM, has been invited, Dawson said.

Mobile and fixed instant messaging might not work together from the start, although Dawson stressed Wireless Village doesn't seek a partition between wireless and fixed messaging.

"The initial phase might include some proxies or gateways to get the systems to work together," he said, noting that the Wireless Village specification will be published for market players to use. The site has been launched as hub for the initiative.

Although the mobile services will have capabilities similar to those offered on a PC, the creators of the Wireless Village initiative envision phone users paying for most of the functionality. Users will be able to subscribe to presence services, such as a listing of which friends are currently online, a key function of instant messaging services on the PC.

"The presence service is really value-added and unique in the mobile environment," said Nokia spokesman Jyrki Rosenberg. "In the mobile sphere it is more relevant than in the PC environment to know whether somebody is available or busy. The presence service will open up a new market and could also be linked with other services, like calendars."

Services based on the new specification can be offered on 3G (third-generation) mobile networks as well as present-day second- generation networks and so-called 2.5G networks worldwide, the companies said.

"The user will get a richer service on more advanced networks," said Rosenberg.

The service will allow users to participate in private or public chat rooms and will include security capabilities for user authentication, secure message transfer, and access control, the companies said.

Ultimately, network operators will be able to provide meeting and conferencing services with shared content. Services based on the new specification can be offered on 3G (third-generation) mobile networks as well as current networks, the companies said.

The new mobile instant messaging protocol will be based on existing technologies, such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), SMS (Short Message Service) and its successor MMS (Multimedia Message Service), and other protocols such as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), the companies said.

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