APN invests in wireless messaging

APN News and Media has made a significant investment in an effort to introduce mobile data and e-commerce to the market.

In a joint venture with InTouch South Africa, APN has taken a 35 per cent stake in SMS (short message systems) service provider, iTouch Australia. It has also taken a 25 per cent equity stake in Soprano Design, an Australian mobile e-commerce software developer.

APN's investments with InTouch and Soprano are based around mobile telephony technologies including (SMS), wireless application protocol (WAP) and general packet radio service (GPRS), said Richard Newsome, APN Digital's new media director.

He said the goal of the investments was to provide the wholesale or retail of short message systems (SMS) and in offering the back-end technology. The SMS initiative would see subscribed users receive text messages, initially on their GSM mobile phones.

"In Touch has the ability to send bulk SMS messages to subscribers," Newsome explained.

"SMS and WAP are catering for consumers who are no longer in the home," Newsome said. "The information really has to be mobile as well."

For instance, Newsome said InTouch South Africa ran a successful service during the cricket season where subscribers received a message every time a wicket fell during a match.

A similar sports service, plus a daily horoscope and financial alerts, are the first services that iTouch Australia is planning, Newsome said.

"They [users] could say 'I want the half-time and full-time scores from every Broncos game this season'," Newsome explained.

Users currently pay around 50 cents per SMS message. iTouch Australia is currently in negotiations with the major telcos for service provision and pricing arrangements.

Newsome said wireless applications are the next step from SMS, and provides an interactive experience for the users.

"Wireless applications allows users to act on that information with a WAP phone," he said. For example, upon receiving a share price alert, users could access their share trading Web site and act on that information.

Newsome said the Soprano Design investment was a great complement to the iTouch venture in that Soprano has existing WAP development contracts with Australian telcos. It is also in advanced talks with several banks, he said.

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