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Towards a Mobile Information Society

Director Concepts & Technology
Nokia Corporation


Mobile communication goes broadband. One of the main features of the third generation (3G) mobile cellular telecommunications systems is the broad bandwidth. The third generation is an evolutionary step in mobile communication, but will create a revolution in mobile service provisioning. This opens up the door for a location and time independent access to most of the information society services, including broadband Internet access. The implementation in Europe will start 2002. The 3G system will allow for a huge number of new services especially tailored for mobile use and in addition a full broadband access to Internet.


1. Introduction

Already in the early days of mobile communication user preferences indicated that mobility will play an utmost important role in the future information society. The information society services are in general of a broadband nature. The third generation mobile cellular system has a bandwidth up to 2 Mb/s. The third generation is an evolutionary development, very much based on the present narrow band standards, e.g. GSM. The main features are high bandwidth and fast Internet access combined with mobility. The technical development takes place in 3GPP, the Third Generation Partnership Program. This is a global activity where major telecommunications players from all over the world participate. The implementation in Europe will start 2002.

The convergence of technologies and services will generate a huge number of new services. Most information society services except e.g. normal quality TV can be transported. The high bandwidth and high data rates offered by 3G in combination with Internet is enabling a superior content distribution and interaction in the increasingly IP-centric world. Data communication is expected to become larger than voice communication in the near future. Internet is the main driver in this development.


2. The Evolution in Mobile Communication

Mobile communication has been around for about 25 years. In the beginning the number of users were rather limited, but the development has in recent years shown an explosive growth. The two first generations systems for voice communication, whereas the third generation is developed to become a general-purpose voice and broadband data system.

The exceptional acceptance and growth of second-generation mobile communications, GSM, has in some regions already become almost the "every-mans" commodity. Scandinavian countries as being the forerunners, more than 2 out of 3 persons do have a mobile phone. These countries as well show more advanced services for mobile phones than other regions. Other European countries are just now catching up fast.

Internet will play a decisive role in the transition into the mobile information society. It is forecasted that the number of mobile Internet subscribers will become larger than PCs connected to Internet already by end of year 2004.


3. The Paradigm Shift

The third generation mobile communication offers broad bandwidth and/or high bit rate to the user. Applications and services like e-banking, e-commerce, information services, entertainment and new kind of mobile focused services will undoubtedly speed up the move towards the mobile information society. The mobility makes it possible to be connected to the services independent of location. The present and especially new services will change cause a paradigm shift in communications and service provision.

The legacy network operator owned the network and "owned" their subscribers. The service offered was connectivity, in the early days only voice later as well low speed data transport services.

Broad band multimedia transport and high speed Internet connectivity will change the situation. Content and service providers, user etc. do offer services, which are networked and can be reached by anybody and almost anywhere. Such service providers may also be virtual network operators.


4. Mobile Information Society services

Most of information society services can be applied and used by third generation mobile equipment. Mobility and location independence enables new kind of services for mobile use. Such are e.g. Virtual Home Environment (VHE), location-based services, mobile healthcare, mobile telematics collaborative work, video conferencing etc.

A categorizing of services and users is difficult, mainly due to the convergence of equipment and services. Many of the services will however have a focus on user groups, like business and private use. Services for private users are e.g. entertainment, remote learning, remote health care/telemedicin, and remote gaming and gambling. Services related to business use are e.g. office extension tele working, remote telematics/telemetry etc.

Many of the services are of a more generic nature like video telephony, unified messaging etc. New kind of services on demand, push and pull services will emerge. Much of the service will be bundled into service special or universal service portals.


5. The Service Portal

A portal is a kind of entrance to various kind of bundled services. A portal can be a web site or service that offers a large number of various kind of services, such as e-mail and e-mail server, server for the users own web pages, forums, search engines, and on-line shopping malls, network computing, remote storage etc.
AOL has been one of the first portals to offer various kind of services and in additional access to Internet. Today most of the traditional search engines have transformed themselves into Web portals to attract and keep a larger audience.

The mobile network operators' role will change from the present voice, SMS and data transport enterprise to become a portal for various kind of services and in addition offer mobile Internet connectivity. The mobile operator will also become a connectivity gateway for a number of services offered by third parties and as well become a transport provider for virtual network operators.

A portal can be established at almost any part in an end-to-end system. A portal can offer a cluster of services, which can be tailored to the users needs. Portals can be at the:

  • Content provider
  • Network operator
  • ISP

A portal can deliver an almost unlimited number of services from many applications areas. Main applications may be found in areas like finance and transactional services, remote computing, tele-shopping, remote education, communication, travelling support, e-commerce, information services, lifestyle & entertainment, news, sport, transactional services and e-banking, remote health services, just name a few.


6. Example - E-banking

E-banking is one of the very fast growing fields of electronic services. However, large differences in acceptance and implementation between the regions occur. Some are related to different time schedules, others to local needs and available infrastructure. Relations between the growth of services and the general acceptance of Internet and mobile telephony can be observed.

A significant difference to the general acceptance of mobile telephony in Scandinavia can be observed. In Finland and Sweden e-banking is very popular, whereas the acceptance in Denmark and Norway is lower. Especially in Finland banking is fast moving towards wireless e-banking by using specially tailored GSM based services. The high acceptance in Finland is demonstrated by that Merita bank of Finland has more private electronic bank accounts than Germany in total. And this in spite Finland has just 5 million inhabitants compared to Germany's 80 million.


7. E-commerce and e-transactional services

The electronic businesses like E-commerce, e-retail, e-transaction, e-contracting etc. are becoming international businesses. They will also become one of the most important part of the information society. All require global and approved standards and rules to ensure a safe and secure traffic. Also the regulatory environment need to be harmonized. Even when some standards and rules are already in place, there is still a lot to be done. Many new initiatives have been taken to make this happen. The standards organizations in various regions are progressing on such. Unfortunately these are still often done on a regional base, and hence competing standards and systems will occur. Business-to-business e-commerce used much more than business-to-private. Lack of security has been a barrier to the implementation of e-commerce in Europe. New regulations and development in the field of secure data transport are fueling the growth.
In order to enable a harmonized global standardization in the field of e-commerce, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe together with the global standards organizations, IEC, ISO and ITU have agreed to cooperate in this field.

E-business enables the market to become global. The well-known yellow pages are becoming electronic directories. These in combinations with the general purpose search engines enables the user to find almost anything.

Mobile systems make e-commerce even user location and time independent. Regulatory issues are still to be developed, especially regarding international e-commerce and guarantee questions and for business-to-business as well regarding legal issues on e-cross boarder transactions and e-contracting.

Another examples are automatic warehousing and automatic shelf ordering by using with easy movable terminals. These can be used by the personal or by the suppliers' agents by walking around. The mobile system then automatically registers all needs at the suppliers computer system. Also the local supplier can receive order directly from end user for immediate delivery, where the user may do the ordering location independent.


8. Location based Value Added Services

Location based services are new kind of mobile services. The perspective of substantial revenues from Location-based Value Added Services (VAS) has taken the industry by storm. ETSI is currently standardizing a number of technologies, both network and terminal centric, while a number of proprietary solutions is already being trialed (e.g., CPS), together with more conventional GPS-based solutions.

With this in mind, the European Commission (EC) organized in June 1999 a workshop on this issue to launch a much-needed debate already in the perspective of an eventual mandate to locate cellular 112 emergency calls in the not so distant future. In fact, in the context of the 1999 Communications Review, Communication (COM 1999) 539 of 19/11/99, the EC did propose a time plan calling for the availability of location information by 1 January 2003, although the details of such a mandate are not yet clear.

A huge number of business and private based services can be deployed. Via electronic directories and location based technologies a user can be guided to wanted service and its location. Such can e.g. shops, restaurants, theaters etc. Example of business use e.g. a taxi or truck operator knows the location of each car in the fleet, a service can be carried out by the car park owner, given by the network operator or by third party.


9. Office Extension

The office goes remote - where, how and when is becoming more important. People on the move, difficult to find right people where the need is, fixed working our in the office etc. are driving the development towards the mobile office. With the introduction of the third generation mobile communications, the low bit rate problem is not anymore the barrier.

The globalization of competition and the reaction on time to market drives the development towards time limited project based approaches.
At the same time the move from an industrial society towards the information society leads to new work concepts e.g. tele-working and remote working. New specialized networked enterprises will offer high quality specialist services.

To become successful in the globalization of markets requires many of the applications to become localized applications, which take in consideration the local demands like language and culture. Such demands can in most cases be best solved with local skill networked to the contractors.


10. Service Provisioning in a Virtual Home Environment, VHE

VHE is a concept to enable service portability across the borders of UMTS networks. It shall ensure that a user is offered the same services in a visited network that he has in his home network, and that those services always have the same personalized look and feel, regardless of the environment or network through which they are accessed. This shall also serve to soften the transition to UMTS and may prove to be an aid in adoption.

By use of data stored on the USIM card (UMTS Subscriber Identity Module), the visited network shall imitate the subscriber's home network service environment. This means that there is no need for the user to adapt or reconfigure his terminal to receive the services to which he subscribes in his home environment, hence Virtual Home Environment.

There is a trial running which is allowing users to build their own menus on internet enabled mobile phones, using personal assistants. This is viewed as a prototype of a Virtual Home Environment (VHE), and will provide useful data about the extent to which customers will want to personalize their service.

However, the UMTS consists of three component networks: fixed, mobile, and satellite. To fully utilize the VHE concept is however depending on agreements between operators on the minimum set of services and data rates that they will offer.


11. Conclusions

The impact on the information society and related services when moving from a narrow band voice centric system like GSM to the broadband multimedia focused system 3G/UMTS will be tremendous for both users and service providers.

Some governments are already discussing that the authorities should carry the cost of mobile equipment and communication when such a device is needed for e.g. medical, social and security reasons. This clearly indicates that mobile communication has become a natural part of the society. The information and knowledge society will hence be a mobile communications and information society.