Send Me Your Money
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 28 13:03:43 GMT 2003

Four big European carriers look to jumpstart m-commerce...


Perhaps the industry was nursing a hangover after last week's 3GSM World Congress trade show, as it was a fairly quiet week. Look for things to pick up a bit as we edge towards CeBIT and CTIA Wireless in a couple of weeks.

But the biggest news was a group of 4 big European carriers banding together to offer secure payments between merchants, mobile users and banks. Telefonica Moviles, Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile said they would set up a pan-European financial clearinghouse to process payments that would typically be under 10 euros. They're hoping to capitalize on consumers that spent over USD 1.5 billion via their phones last year, but simplify the process and expand the range of merchandise available beyond the usual ringtones and operator logos.

Qualcomm kept up its Asian push, announcing that it was meeting with carriers China Telecom and China Unicom about using its CDMA2000 technology for their 3G networks, though as we reported last week, the Chinese government is pumping oodles of yuan into the country's homegrown TD-SCDMA standard. Qualcomm also said it had created a joint venture with China Unicom to develop wireless data applications, which would lead many to believe the carrier may soon launch BREW services, giving movement to the somewhat stagnant Java rival.

As if US regulatory bodies don't cause carriers enough headaches already, one senator is introducing legislation that would establish a "Cell Phone Bill of Rights" to protect the country's wireless users. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, hopes the bill would force carriers to adopt mobile number portability, make contracts more understandable to the average non-lawyer, and provide incredibly detailed coverage maps . It would also call on the FCC to monitor carriers' quality of service. That fact that little in the bill - apart from forcing MNP, something the FCC has already mandated - would actually spur competition or improve service hasn't deterred a number of consumer groups from backing it.

In other news, Macromedia said that NTT DoCoMo would implement Flash technology into I-mode handsets and service, making it the first carrier worldwide to do so. Flash, one of the most widely used content creation tools on the Web, should be quite a boon in the mobile space, thanks to the huge existing developer base and the software's ability to pack a substantial amount of graphics and animation into a small file. DoCoMo's 505i series of handsets, due out later this year, will be the first to feature Flash.

Sci-Fi Geeks of the World Unite: In the build-up to the May release of The Matrix: Reloaded, Samsung this week announced it would sell a phone based on a model used in the film, hoping to replicate the cult success of the Nokia 8100 from the first Matrix film. Though the phone's official site attempts to keep up the mysterious air surrounding the film, there are several fan sites with photos showing something that looks more like an electric shaver than a mobile phone.