M1, EdgeMatrix aim research at mobile commerce

Mobile operator MobileOne (M1) and multichannel infrastructure developer EdgeMatrix are investing S$1 million (US$550,000) each in a wireless research center in Singapore.

Called the Wireless Intellect Labs, the new joint venture is an independent setup which aims to sell its research to companies worldwide. It will do work on areas such as technologies for mobile commerce, wireless payments and wireless broadband solutions focusing on 2.5G (enhanced second-generation) and 3G (third-generation), according to Dinesh Bhatia, chief executive officer of EdgeMatrix.

Early projects could include micropayment services, video streaming technology, multimedia messaging and Bluetooth applications.

Another important area is that of location-based services. "Nobody has really come up with this and people are still looking for a platform and a methodology to allow these location-based services to really work," said Bhatia.

The research center will be jointly managed by both companies and will be housed near M1's office at the International Business Park.

Operations will kick off next month but will go full blast in the third quarter of this year.

There will be an initial team of 10 research staff, according to Varun Arora, senior director for planning and development at EdgeMatrix. Arora will oversee the laboratories until a general manager is brought on board.

The new joint venture is expected to be profitable after three years. Revenue will come from licensing its technology to cellular companies and mobile applications developers worldwide. Separate research projects commissioned by clients are another source of income.

Elaborating on the strengths of the joint venture, Arora said, "M1 is a cellular company and is familiar with the business and since it works closely with customers, it understands them and the problems that they face."

"Our clients will also have an operational environment for testing concepts and technologies using M1's infrastructure," he added.

The Wireless Intellect Labs will focus only on research, which may include alpha testing, but will not be engaged in product development, Arora said.

The new joint venture is seen as a vehicle for propelling both companies into the worldwide mobile arena.

"We want this joint venture to have a global impact and presence. We aim to be world-class, not just in Singapore. This joint venture allows us to leverage on future global revenues," said Neil Montefiore, chief executive officer of M1.

Montefiore also sees the research center as an advantage for M1's 3G services rollout. "This allows us to develop applications for 3G quickly and therefore gain a competitive advantage."

Walking their talk, Montefiore and Bhatia inked the multi-million dollar deal the wireless way, using their digital signatures from mobile phones.

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