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European m-commerce trials to begin
One system goal
In a bid to boost mobile commerce in the EU, trials will begin next year on a project that aims to harmonise European mobile payment and security standards.
The Trusted Transaction Roaming (T2R) system, which will be managed by non-profit organisation Radicchio, is attempting to establish a single m-commerce infrastructure across Europe.
Backed by companies such as Vodafone, Ericsson, Visa and BT, the initiative has received EU funding under the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. A figure of around EUR60 million had been mentioned in some reports, but Radicchio's Chief Executive Officer Stefan Engel-Flechsig told ElectricNews.Net that the actual amount was far less. However, he declined to reveal how much funding it has received.
According to Engel-Flechsig, the project can help both mobile operators and merchants benefit from m-commerce by providing a system that allows consumers to buy products and services from across Europe over their mobile phones regardless of the network they are signed-up to.
Although much hyped, m-commerce has failed to take-off because of the lack of goods available and security concerns among consumers. Engel-Flechsig said that T2R will change this situation. "Currently, merchants looking to offer their products over mobile phones have to negotiate and sign individual contracts with each mobile operator in every country they want to sell in. And mobile networks that want to make m-commerce service available to their customers have to enter into discussions with separate merchants. The complexity of this is stopping the roll out of mobile commerce," he remarked.
Engel-Flechsig said that T2R will simplify the process by getting mobile operators to offer a common m-commerce infrastructure that will make it possible, for example, for Irish mobile users to book and pay for Italian opera tickets.
In order to make the system secure, Engel-Flechsig said a standardised infrastructure would be put in place that enables mobile companies to easily exchange personal information and the banking details of their customers. He added that several operators such as Vodafone and Orange have been trialing PKI security systems and that many such companies were convinced of the need for this common infrastructure.
However, he cautioned that it will take some time for T2R to become a reality. "We will have to be very careful about its implementation and will be taking it step-by-step." Radicchio is currently talking to several mobile operators and merchants about taking part in its proof of concept pilot, which is due to go live in the first quarter of 2003.