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Mobile Services FAQ

What is the Mobile (M-Services) Initiative?
The GSM Association is concerned about fragmentation in the handset market and the inability to depend on specific handset features which it believes are necessary for the success of its members.

To address this fragmentation, the GSMA has published feature guidelines for mobile phones that aim to help ensure that operators could depend on a certain set of consistent features and services in mobile handsets. This will allow the operators and content providers to focus on building 'globally available compelling applications that will excite users and create opportunities for new revenue streams based on a common application framework.


What are the core elements that M-Services will cover?
At a high level, the requirements in the M-Services Guidelines cover 1) definition of a Graphical User Interface for WAP browsers, 2) a common framework for downloading consumer-oriented content, and 3) multimedia messaging. Additionally, the Guidelines suggest usage models for a number of common applications in phones.

What are the timelines for this initiative?
The GSMA approved the M-Services guidelines in late May 2001. The guidelines lists what it believes are conformance recommendations for phones and have made its recommendations freely available to all manufacturers of handsets and software developers. It is now up to the handset manufacturers to implement M-Services into their handsets in a quality way.


Who will be affected?
The M-Services Guidelines will potentially positively benefit many operators, content developers, and handset vendors in addition to consumers. Many operators and content developers are already designing services based on these common handset features to be available this year.

Of course, consumers will be positively affected - and hopefully attracted to a host of new and compelling service offerings when they learn about them through advertising and word of mouth.


Why is this announcement important and what will it mean for the future of the mobile Internet?
The existence of the M-Services Guidelines will allow operators to focus on building compelling services that will work across a broad range of devices. The M-Services Guidelines will also serve as a bridge to WAP 2.0 services based on high-bandwidth 2.5G and 3G networks as the infrastructure and devices are made available over the next few years.


Which companies have signed up to the new requirements?
The GSM Association has received overwhelming support from its operator members for the M-Services initiative.

Openwave has committed to support these requirements as well, both through licensing of the Openwave Mobile Browser to manufacturers and licensing of the Openwave Download Fun Server and other infrastructure products to operators. Additionally, Openwave has agreed to license essential intellectual property specified in M-Services to third party vendors who desire to add support for those protocols to their browsers and servers.

Additionally, and most importantly, most leading GSM handset manufacturers will provide handsets based on the M-Services guidelines. Companies that have announced support include Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, Samsung, and Sagem, among others.


Who stands to benefit most from M-Services?
Consumers will benefit the most from the M-Services Guidelines - they will enjoy a whole new world of consistently available mobile Internet services, and enhanced functionality via this initiative. However, as a broad industry initiative, the aim is that consumers, operators, suppliers will all benefit from a market which can deliver enhanced data services.


Is this a new standard?
The M-Services Guidelines is not a standard. It is however founded on existing standards and protocols that exist today. The set of M-Services guidelines together make up a common baseline of features that application developers and content providers can depend on in designing and developing their services.
How will this impact 2.5G and 3G. Does this mean that the carriers will be able to recoup their investment in 3G licences'
Certainly one of the goals is for operators to generate revenues based on their existing 2G and 2.5G networks. The philosophy is to build compelling services on existing networks and bandwidth now - and upgrade those services to higher bandwidth when their network is there and there is compelling new content that requires that high bandwidth.

The successful rollout of M-Services may reduce the false idea that 3G is required for successful revenue-generating data services, allowing 3G networks to be rolled out at a more rational pace as demand for high bandwidth grows.


What will happen if handset manufacturers do not wish to comply with the guidelines?
All manufacturers of GSM/ GPRS handsets have been provided with the same opportunities to introduce M-Services into their GPRS product offerings and the guidelines are readily available to all manufacturers of handsets. Ratification and publication of the M-Services Guidelines by the GSMA does not mean that it is a requirement for handset manufacturers to support those guidelines. Individual operators will specify their specific requirements when they sign purchase contracts with vendors. Some operators may insist on purchasing only phones that meet the M-Services Guidelines, while others may purchase a mix of handsets for their various target markets.

More importantly, the M-Services Guidelines lists a number of options in key features, such as the graphical user interface and the download capability. Operators who desire one option over the other must state their requirement explicitly.

If a manufacturer decides not to meet the operator's specific requirements, then the operator will need to make the decision about whether or not to buy handsets from that vendor.


Will there end up being two systems, as happened with Beta and VHS, for example?
The optional features in M-Services guidelines are included specifically as temporary measures until standards in development can be completed. We do not expect a long-term bifurcation and battle between systems. Instead, developers and service providers who want to offer compelling services today may use the systems available today - WML 1.2 with GUI extensions and Download Fun. Other solutions may be offered as well based upon the M-Services Guidelines.
Will this lead to confusion and a slowdown in application development'
Motivated service providers and developers who want to take advantage of the new features will welcome the opportunity to leverage these temporary solutions. Others may choose to stay with the existing WML 1.2 mark-up now or wait for WML 2.0 next year. But we do not see a slowdown in application development.


How will developers gain?
Developers gain in two ways. First, the requirement for handsets to support a Graphical User Interface means that they can develop more usable and intuitive content for devices. This increases user satisfaction and increases the likelihood of users continuing to use the service.

Second, the Download capability allows content developers to offer content to be downloaded for a fee. Through arrangement with operators, they can tie in to operator's billing systems to make it easy to collect payments for the services provided. The common application framework means that content providers would not need to significantly modify their applications for use on different operator networks.

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