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In a very short space of time mobile phones have become nearly ubiquitous in many societies around the globe. As the ratio of the number of cell phones per head of population moves towards one, the network operators are keen to uncover new methods of extracting money from their subscribers, in both the contract and prepay sectors. The question then becomes: are consumers happy to use their phones to buy new services?

This question was amongst several issues addressed in a survey commissioned by Qpass, a provider of mobile commerce software used by mobile operators. Respondents overwhelmingly expressed a willingness to use their mobiles as a payment mechanism, with 80 per cent of those surveyed potentially happy to pay for a range of services with their phone.

However, among those who have used phones to make purchases, around 40 per cent of m-commerce transactions experienced errors. This result is also reflected in the thoughts of the providers of mobile content across the EU. When 20 such organisations were questioned, 45 per cent described mobile commerce systems in use today as "poor" while a further 40 per cent depicted them as "inadequate".

The mobile content providers are concerned that the network operators do not possess the business systems required to support their needs and consider the situation to be unacceptable. The lack of such systems and mobile commerce support structures is stifling the release and take up of new services, they say. This is particularly deemed to be the case where the billing systems employed are unable to easily handle new, more flexible pricing models.

The bulk of mobile revenues in the EU today still result from premium SMS services such as ring tones and wallpapers, although the proportion is falling as other services, notably gaming and gambling, slowly come on stream. Qpass offers Services Management software to help manage all facets of service provision, mobile commerce payment and settlement along with workflow capabilities to handle content partner relationships, service bundle creation and customer care in both mobile and "Wi-Fi" networks.

Qpass also helps mobile operators establish appropriate business rules for new services and helps to deliver new content and offerings in a more timely fashion. The functionality provided covers content provider management, service offer management, payments, settlements and, an area often overlooked, customer care and reporting. In effect, Qpass can abstract service management from the existing billing, provisioning and CRM infrastructures helping to create a far more flexible service platform that often results in increased revenue per purchasing account.

Qpass is now looking to expand its presence in Europe following years of successful operation in North America. With customers ready to use their phones to buy new services it is up to the industry to supply offerings to the market at prices that the consumer will pay, when they want to use them.

The retail, parking and transport industries appear to be well positioned to exploit mobile phones as purchasing tools. With new e-money regulations still gaining a foothold in the EU and with mobile devices nearly ubiquitous, are you ready to pay by phone for more than a snazzy (or annoying) ring tone?

Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com

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