Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Telecoms work on compatibility between services

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

The inability of the latest generation of multimedia messaging service (MMS) cellphones and wireless services to communicate with each other may hinder the growth in the much ballyhooed market segment.

"It's all about communications ... [handsets and services must be able to exchange information because] the basic motivation of using a phone is being able to connect to other people," said Michael Pousti, CEO of SMS.ac, a San Diego-based mobile messaging service company.

MMS is a new advanced data transmission mobile service allowing cellphone users to send text messages, audio files or color pictures including photos and graphics.

Current problems with MMS are two-fold: First, handset makers have not created a standard for MMS exchange, resulting in blurry photo transmissions sent from, for example, a Nokia phone to a Sony Ericsson phone.

Second, wireless-service providers also have no MMS communication standard, meaning subscribers to different services, such as Taiwan Cellular Corp (台哥大) and Chunghwa Telecom Corp (中華電信) for example, cannot exchange photos.

This lack of inter-connectivity among cellphone platforms is a major stumbling block that is expected to force industry players to sit down and work on the issue.

"The industry has realized the challenge is there, and sooner or later major telecom vendors in the world need to make an effort to work it out," said Alex Yang, software integration division manager at Nokia Taiwan Co.

Both Pousti and Yang made the remarks at a sideline of the two-day MMS Taiwan 2002 seminar in Taipei yesterday. Over 20 global telecom players are in town to talk about the development of MMS.

In June, Taiwan Cellular launched the nation's first MMS feature, followed by Chunghwa Telecom in August.

Far EasTone Telecom Co (遠傳) is scheduled to offer MMS by the end of the year.

Resolving the problem will require cooperation among rivals.

"This is a business issue not a technical problem. The technology is already there, but carriers want to protect their own interests and have therefore decided not to allow inter-connections," Yang said.

The government, meanwhile, is pressuring competitors in the sector to come up with a solution.

"The Directorate General of Telecommunications has talked with operators and urged them to quickly form an interconnection agreement," Yang said.

They hope to finalize inter-connection and roaming agreements early next year, he said. Manufacturers are already working on handset compatibility, Wang said.

"Handset companies have been working on this ... and in three months to maybe a year there will be a standard that everyone can use," Yang said.

While the MMS handset penetration rate in Taiwan is less than 1 percent, makers are hoping 50 percent of next year's new cellphones will be MMS ready.

Industry professionals, meanwhile, said the nation's MMS development is very promising.

"Taiwan will be faster [than most countries in the US and Europe] in adopting MMS," said Jay Teborek, a director at MMS software, creator Comverse Network Systems Asia Pacific Limited.

Taiwanese mobile operators, have the money to invest in new services, he said.

Tech-crazed Taiwanese change handsets almost twice as often as their US or European counterparts -- a boon for telecom makers, Teborek said.

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