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The trauma of losing a mobile phone is usually not the handset but the phone numbers and saved text messages it contains. And while these can be backed up via Bluetooth or a £20 SIM reader, this is too complex for most people so it doesn't happen.

The solution is for network operators to offer over-the-air backup services, says Ian van Reenen, technology director of software house Attix5, which has developed Backup Professional: Mobile Edition.

Initially available for Symbian, PalmOS and Windows Mobile devices, the software can save data from both phone and SIM, either manually or on a schedule. Now Attix5 has inked a deal with SmartTrust which will allow ordinary phones to be backed up too, via software on the SIM.

"We were tempted by the synchronisation route, but it's too complicated for the average user," van Reenen says. "We decided to go for pure backup - we say either you recover to your last backup, or look and see what you deleted and choose to recover that."

He adds that the phone can be set to backup automatically when there is a change, or else the network can initiate backups. "We've learnt that the biggest problem in the backup schedule is the user - it doesn't work unless the user does it," he says.

The Attix5-SmartTrust deal is limited by the fact that SIMs with the necessary plug-in are only just appearing, but van Reenen reckons it will eventually offer operators several routes to extra revenue.

The obvious ones are extra GPRS traffic and subscriptions, with Attix5 pitching it as a volume-based £1 a month service, but van Reenen suggests others.

"A network operator can see a 70% loss of call revenue over the next three months when a user loses their phone, because of the disruption it causes," he claims, "plus it should reduce churn because the user has less incentive to go elsewhere for a replacement phone."

He adds, "The simplest sell is: 'Is there information on that phone you don't want to lose? Would you pay £1 a month to be able to get it back?'" ®

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