This article presents an overview of prevailing trends and developments shaping mobile commerce (m-commerce) and the wireless economy. A review of wireless telecommunications infrastructure attempts to demystify the evolving technology landscape. Mobile Internet deployment and adoption demographics are highlighted, as are innovative wireless applications and current m-commerce issues.
The World Wide Web (WWW) and Web browser software brought mass market accessibility to the Internet. Riding on this ubiquity and reach is electronic commerce (e-commerce) in its many forms: inter-business dealing, intra-organization transactions and business-to-consumer trade, and so forth. E-commerce has witnessed impressive growth and continues to be a significant propellant of Internet progress. Participants have, however, hitherto been essentially tethered to fixed line connections. The development of novel wireless services and mobile adaptations of familiar applications (Ghini, 2000) is fueled by demand from increasingly nomadic users looking to access familiar online facilities, and the steady convergence of telecommunications and computing technologies (Messerschmitt, 1996).
Wireless telecommunications was conceived in the 1980s to carry voice, but has evolved to become data bearer, including Internet communications. The cellular telephone is now commonplace and more personal digital assistants (PDAs), hand-held computers and the like are sporting cellular radio connectivity. These devices form a sizable platform for deploying m-commerce applications. M-commerce refers to the ability to browse, interact with and make payment for goods and services directly from mobile terminals such as cell phones, PDAs and portable computers (Tan, 2002). Industry forecast statistics point to exponential growth in the sector:
Worldwide shipment of Web-enabled wireless devices rose 796% in 2000 over 1999 and consumer transactions committed from such terminals will total US $1.8 trillion worldwide by 2005 (Source: Gartner Group).
International wireless data market was expected to grow from 170 million to more than 1.3 billion subscribers between 2000–2004, equipping themselves with 1.5 billion wireless-capable handsets and other Internet appliances by end of 2004 (Source: Cahners In-Stat Group).
Wireless Internet users in the Asia-Pacific region alone will rise 10-fold from 20 to 216.3 million between 2000–2007 (Source: Strategis Group).
As Internet and mobile communications converge, e-commerce evolves into m-commerce. The tremendous potential of “anytime” convenience and “anywhere” mobility in carrying out everyday online transactions will spur many unique mobile services yet.Top
Technology Road Map
Early wireless telecommunications architecture in the late 1940s was modeled after television broadcasting. Tall, centralized transmitter towers provided radio coverage. Limitations like restricted user mobility and capacity, poor voice quality and high cost saw the introduction of new cellular technology in late 1970s—a superior architecture persisting to this day.
A cellular mobile communications system comprises a vast collective of low-power antenna subsystems, dispersed in small overlapping geographical units called cells. Individual cellular base stations provide local coverage and interconnect for a combined footprint that constitutes the wireless network. Modern implementations are typified by larger, sparse cells in rural areas and small, dense ones in metropolitan districts. The technology road map is demarcated by milestones corresponding to transmission bandwidth.
Key Terms in this Chapter
SMS (Short Message Service): A wireless service for bidirectional transfer of alphanumeric messages among mobile terminals in digital cellular networks.
LBS (Location-Based Services): The provisioning of value-added services to cellular subscribers based on the physical location of their mobile devices within the network.
M-Commerce (Mobile Commerce): The ability to browse, interact with and make payment for goods and services directly from mobile terminals such as cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and portable computers.
WAP (Wireless Application Protocol): An open, extensible and unified global standard for delivering information and providing interactive services over cellular networks to mobile devices.