Promising to spur the development and reliability of mobile services and technology, a group of nine mobile industry players said Wednesday that they are applying for a mobile top-level domain (TLD) that would operate under a joint venture registry.
The group said that the initiative is aimed at simplifying mobile subscribers' Internet experience and streamlining the deployment of new sites aimed at mobile usage. The group is made up of Microsoft Corp.; Nokia Corp.; Vodafone Group PLC; Hewlett-Packard Co.; Hutchinson 3G UK Ltd.; Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sun Microsystems Inc., Orange SA and the GSM Association.
The group plans to hand its TLD application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on March 15 and expects a decision within three to six months. If all goes well, the registry will be operating by the second-half of 2005, Brian Arbogast, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the MSN Communications Platform, said during a conference call Wednesday.
An ICANN representative could not comment on the likely outcome of the application Wednesday. However, Arbogast said the group "remains very confident" about the decision.
While nine players have already thrown their weight behind the proposed joint venture, Arbogast said that they expect several more companies to get involved.
"We expect and encourage different members," Arbogast said.
The creation of a mobile TLD would offer mobile customers more reliability when accessing content from their mobile devices, accelerating the adoption of mobile services, Arbogast said.
"Today customers don't have a dependable experience," he said. The TLD will also offer a new business opportunity to network operators and content creators, he added.
In that vein, Arbogast said he expected the move to open access to mobile content and to peer-to-peer content.
The joint venture members said that they were dedicated to building a system that could support the growth of Internet-enabled mobile devices accessing new content.
The proposed mobile TLD registry would be based in Ireland, with some outsourcing of infrastructure functions, Nokia's Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Pertti Korhonen said during the call.
Korhonen estimated that from the outset the system would have to be able to support over a billion mobile devices connected to the Internet.
"We need high reliability on the back end with the ability to scale (to support) new technologies," he said.
In addition to providing mobile TLDs for operators and content providers, the group also plans to offer second-level and third-level mobile domains, Korhonen said. A second-level domain would be for a corporation or trademark, such as IDG@mTLD, for example, while a third-level domain would offer an address to an individual, such as Ernesto@mTLD.
While plans for the TLD were grand, Korhonen said that the registry itself would be lean, with a staff of 20 to 25. A policy advisory group is being planned, however, and Korhonen said that issues such as open standards for interoperability and guidelines for mobile content are already on the table.
More information on the initiative is available at http://www.mtldinfo.com.