HK Carriers Link to Secure Mobile E-Commerce

HONG KONG (04/26/2000) - Three of Hong Kong's major mobile telecommunications carriers today kicked off an initiative aimed at making it safer for consumers to buy goods and services via their cell phones.

In a bid to promote wireless e-commerce in Hong Kong, Cable & Wireless HKT Ltd., Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong) Ltd. and SmarTone Mobile Communications Ltd. will set up a forum to develop a mobile digital certificate -- an "M-cert" -- and specifications for using that certificate in a public key infrastructure.

Although the initiative at first will be focused on Hong Kong, the carriers hope to give the territory a leading role in the development of global standards for mobile e-commerce security, executives said today in interviews following a press conference here.

Digital certificates are designed to make sure that only authorized users can carry out electronic transactions and that those transactions remain confidential.

The carriers hope to enlist other mobile service providers in Hong Kong, as well as e-commerce providers, handset makers, and certificate authorities, in an effort to develop and support a single standard certificate, executives said. The goal is to work out details and conduct testing over the next six months and have the certificates in use by year's end.

While broader security standards for mobile communications emerge, Hong Kong carriers need to develop the specifications that best serve the territory's needs and make sure local users' needs are met in global standards development, said Cliff Woo, deputy managing director and wireless networks director of Hutchison Telecom, in comments following the event.

"Because Hong Kong is running ahead of many countries, especially in Asia, we want to make Hong Kong a leader in this area," Woo said.

With a population of approximately 6 million, Hong Kong has about 3 million mobile phone users, according to estimates from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.

The carrier executives projected that by 2003, mobile e-commerce will account for approximately half of a business-to-consumer e-commerce market of about US$900 million in Hong Kong.

Although security mechanisms exist today for securing such transactions, this anticipated growth calls for a better solution, they said.

"I'm not saying that the current practice is not adequate, but for the future world of e-commerce, we think we need to develop a more stringent and comprehensive way of dealing with the issue," Hutchison's Woo said.

"There is not a single solution that can connect everything," said Eden Lau, general manager of mobile services marketing at C&W HKT. For example, standard e-certificates now being introduced by the Hong Kong government will need to work with the subscriber identity module (SIM) cards that users insert in their mobile phones, he said.

C&W HKT can be reached via the Web at http://www.cwhkt.com. Hutchison is at http://www.hthk.com.hk. SmarTone is at http://www.smartone.com. All are located in Hong Kong.

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