CTIA: Mobile world looks beyond phone calls

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

VeriSign Inc. on Monday will unveil along with Telespree Communications what a VeriSign executive called the "self-provisioning phone," a system for carriers that lets new customers buy a phone off the shelf without having to interact with a salesperson. The customer can set the phone up, get a phone number, have their credit checked and choose and sign up for a service contract through the phone itself, over the mobile operator's network. The system is designed to eliminate lines of customers waiting for help at stores, according to Vernon Irvin, executive vice president of the Communications Services division of VeriSign, in Mountain View, California. Later, customers will be able to do this on a PC via the Internet, he said.

VeriSign aims to showcase its integration of security, billing and directory technology, which operators are seeking as part of a move away from small vendors of individual functions, Irvin said. He sees the company's size and integrated technology as key for mobile operators that need to scale up their services as the industry consolidates. At the 3GSM World Congress last month, VeriSign announced integration of online payment and prepaid and postpaid cellular billing systems.

Also along those lines, VeriSign will announce on Monday a system to integrate billing from many different Wi-Fi hotspot services on the user's mobile phone bill and an acquisition that will let the company enhance its MMS (multimedia messaging) infrastructure and integrate it with other VeriSign technologies.

The company's acquisition of the assets of Unimobile will allow it to do its own MMS system development, scale the system more effectively and integrate the system with other VeriSign technologies. It also adds one more major U.S. mobile operator to VeriSign's MMS customer base; the company previously had two major U.S. customers, Irvin said.

U.K. companies will be pitching their mobile expertise at a British Technology Partners Pavilion and a Scottish Pavilion on the show floor, looking for partnerships with U.S. companies. British companies have been able to concentrate on the uses of mobile technology because the U.K., along with many other countries, standardized on GSM years ago, said Dale Smith, vice consul and information and communication technology sector advisor at the U.K. Consulate-General in San Francisco.

"In other parts of the world, a lot of the investment went into the application layer. ... In the U.S., people are still battling it out at the lower layers," Smith said.

A news release sent out on behalf of the consulate pointed to "innovative" uses of mobile technology such as managers laying off workers by SMS and wives tracking their husbands via location-based services. Smith chuckled at those examples, saying they were just extreme cases he discovered as part of a research project.

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