MTN ensures subscribers are not forgotten as new technology unfolds

MTN is testing the CMG solution that will allow cellular users who do not have the new Internet enabled handsets to take advantage of new data technology by using short message service (SMS).

The arrival of the new wireless application protocol (WAP) technology, which allows users to download information from the Internet onto their handsets, will, in the near future, make it necessary for subscribers to purchase new handset models. If MTN selects this solution, its subscribers will be able to enjoy the new technology while using their existing handsets.

MTN's chief executive, Bob Chaphe foresees that about 200 000 subscribers will be using WAP-enabled handsets by the end of 2000. "We believe that this technology will change the way we live, and organise our lives. By downloading relevant information, subscribers will have a lot more free time on their hands. Imagine the time that will be saved by paying all accounts and doing banking via cellphone, or being able to book and pay for a holiday, downloading information on stock prices -- the possibilities are limitless."

The solution being tested by the cellular giant is called WAP Service Broker and was developed by CMG Telecommunications, a European wireless messaging and gateway solutions company. Not only will the WAP Service Broker allow pre-WAP handset users to access the technology, but it will simplify Internet downloads for WAP handset users by allowing them to chose their own personalised WAP homepage, to receive news, entertainment, e-mail, etc. This will significantly reduce the time used to navigate to the information, and therefore the cost of the call - which has been a major concern for MTN. "Our priority is to ensure that we select the best system for our subscribers, this includes providing them with the best services at the best price," continues Chaphe.

CMG has already installed the WAP Service Broker in amongst others Ireland, Switzerland and Australia, and were the first to develop a WAP-based system for the existing cellular handset market. "Our aim is to provide mobile solutions which are good for the subscriber, the network and the content providers, explains Peter Maathuis, managing director of CMG Telecommunications.

"Even though the market is just in the beginning of WAP deployment, it is becoming more-and-more clear that providers of mobile content and services will devote their time to developing the technology. This leaves cellular operators with a major concern: how can we offer new, innovative and differentiating services to users who have no immediate plans to obtain a WAP-enabled handset? We believe that our programme addresses this need, as even in the most aggressive WAP growth scenarios, the existing handsets will outnumber the new technology handsets over the next 2 - 4 years," explains Maathuis.

How it works (for technical publication):

The CMG solution will use MTN's existing Short Message Service and Circuit Switched Data (normal modem call) as bearers, the WAP Service Broker acts as the gateway between the applicable WAP service and the cellphone. The gateway takes care of the technology and allows content and service providers to concentrate on the look and feel of the services without having to bother with the underlying technology. The system administration and support interface is web-based allowing MTN to configure default or special WAP services to clients. Customers will also be able to make their own configuration changes on the web. MTN will enable corporates to leverage their existing Internet infrastructure to provide WAP services, this allows for quick deployment and control over the content provided to a mobile workforce.

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