Thu, Jan 13, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Autotools unveils cross-carrier platform

TELECOMMUNICATIONS Four mobile carriers are testing the system and may be ready to offer better multimedia messaging services in the next half of the year

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Targeting the advent of third generation telecommunications era, Autotools Group Co (歐特斯科技), a telecommunication-system solutions provider, unveiled a wireless multimedia telecom platform yesterday that enables users to send multimedia messages from cellphones and the Internet to users of different carriers.

The cross-carrier platform is sponsored by the Industrial Development Bureau, which funded NT$50 million (US$1.57 million), or 40 percent of the costs, as part of the plan to boost the nation's telecom industry, Jason Huang (黃啟瑞), president of Autotools, said at a press conference yesterday.

SLOW GROWTH IN MMS

Even though local telecom operators launched a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) -- messages that include longer text, graphics, photos, audio clips or video clips -- in 2002, the service has not proved popular with users due to complicated settings, high charges and system incompatibility among carriers, Huang said.

With the prevalence of color-screen camera phones that support the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network, as well as the pending introduction of 3G telecom service here, the demand and market for MMS is expected to boom, Huang said.

Citing statistics from Merrill Lynch & Co, Huang said global MMS traffic will surge from 39 messages per user per month at present, to 249 messages per user per month this year.

TESTING UNDER WAY

Four major mobile carriers -- Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信), Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大哥大) and KG Telecommuni-cations Co (和信電訊) -- are testing the system, and may start providing the service in the next half of the year, Huang said.

Costs will depend on the size of the message being sent. For example, a 50KB MMS will probably cost senders NT$10 to NT$15, Huang said.

The service also creates huge business opportunities for enterprises to market their products, he added.

Huang expects the service to produce NT$400 million to NT$500 million in output value for the industry in the first year after launching.

Autotools' service will be available in 20 other countries including the US, Japan and China, allowing users here to send MMS data abroad, he said.

HANDSET DEVELOPMENT STILL KEY

The business, however, hinges on the development of 3G-capable handsets and it may take some time for cellphone makers to solve various technical obstacles, said Shih Mu-piao (石木標), chief engineer of Chunghwa Telecom, at the press conference.

"It took almost 10 years to make 2G phones, and it will be even harder to integrate chips used on 3G phones," Shih said.

There are few 3G phones or smartphones available to consumers so far, Shih said.

Nokia Oyj has produced the Nokia 6630. Motorola Inc, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, BenQ Corp (明基電通), Dbtel Inc (大霸電子) and others are working hard to manufacture 3G phones, Shih said.

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