Mobile Apps But Not from the Internet

SINGAPORE (04/06/2000) - Customized content, not repackaged Internet pages, will be key to the future of mobile information services.

The mobile applications that will be the most useful will not run over the open Internet but will be from specially-made content supplied over the cellular phone networks themselves, according to Bjorn Weden, Asia-Pacific vice president for L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co.'s business consulting group.

This is because the mobile networks have a more suitable structure for personalized applications and are inherently more secure, Weden said during a presentation at Comdex Asia today.

"In the secure world of the mobile network the user is identified, we know where the user is, and there already exists some kind of business relation with the user in that they pay a bill," Weden said. "The use of the open Internet for mobile applications will be limited compared to content over the mobile network."

Other benefits of using mobile phones as a platform, and the mobile network as the infrastructure, are that the mobile phone is personal, always on, and is a transactional device through which users can act on information sent to them, according to Weden. Also, the forthcoming third-generation (3G) W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) networks are well suited for Internet traffic as they operate on a packet switching basis, Weden said.

Even with the limited 9.6K bits per second (bps) data transfer rates available over GSM (global system for mobile communications), applications such as short messaging, banking, and stock tracking are viable and proving attractive to end users. When 3G technologies with rates of 384K bps become available, the range and functionality of applications will become irresistible, according to Weden.

"3G will create the network we need for the true mobile Internet," he said.

"Mobile e-mail will become a killer application for these devices. We will also see a lot of ordinary day-to-day applications released for this market -- just as we have already seen for wireline."

Over 1 billion short messages were being sent per month over GSM networks worldwide by the middle of last year, Weden said.

Other popular applications will be reading online newspapers, sending images, downloading maps and other information, calendaring, enhanced messaging and ticketing. For applications where payment is needed, the mobile phone has a built-in solution, Weden said.

"Mobile phones will be used more and more as a method of payment," he said.

"Users can either incur a direct debit to their prepaid mobile card, or send the transaction information to their bank for direct debiting."

The first 3G wave will be business users, who can justify the higher costs.

When 3G reaches the mass market, there will be a wide range of devices aimed at different user groups. Some will look like personal digital assistants, others more like handheld televisions, according to Weden.

By 2004, when the number of mobile phones is equal to the number of wireline phones, there will be several hundred million users worldwide of this mobile Internet, Weden said.

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