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On July 26, 2000 twenty representatives from both the billing and mCommerce arenas convened at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center to share their insights about the future needs for billing systems for mobile commerce. The two-hour roundtable discussion opened with Tom Campbell (Solect, an Amdocs company and Executive Sponsor of the Center); Joe Jasin (Wireless Blueprint, Inc.); Maarten Plesman (Global Technology Ventures); and Michele Scofield (, outlining key issues and challenges for billing systems for mCommerce. Some of the most pressing challenges focused on issues of measurement of both data and voice, and how best to value and measure a transaction over a mobile communication device. Other challenges stemmed from issues of customer perception of mobile communication devices and carriers, raising questions about trust, security, and sense of privacy in this mobile consumer world. The participants focused primarily on B2C aspects of mCommerce.

At the end of the discussion, participants indicated the key challenges to address for shaping the future of billing systems for mCommerce. They were:

  • Measurement of data. How to measure it to know what to bill for?
  • Authentication:
    • at the billing level
    • at the device level
    • establishing trust around mobile commerce and the mobile device

Other key issues discussed included:

Rating and Measurement Issues

  • How to rate massive volumes to decide what to bill for
    • Charging on volume or quality of data?
    • Translating large volume/units to smaller units
    • Come up with 3G devices with an intelligent layer determining where to bill for what
  • Mediation: How to collect?
  • How to capture "value" through a billing system?
  • Self Care
  • Translating content into transaction
  • Need to know how to "talk" to the different gateways, etc.
  • Need for a billing system with flexibility: access to different kinds of billing systems
  • Integration of systems (legacy and cross-platform or varied systems)

Attitudes about Carriers

  • Not much trust that the carriers should be in charge of the billing for mCommerce transactions
  • Challenge to the carriers: measuring new volume and quality of IP communications
  • What can a carrier bill for?
  • Role of the carrier: all roads lead to the carrier, so systems integration companies are now dealing with the carriers (is this good?)


Consumer Behavior and Attitudes (e.g., trust)

  • Consumer behavior and issues of acceptance
    • How to target that mobile market?
    • How to train the mobile user to use a device well?
  • What to do if the transaction is not fulfilled? To bill or not to bill?
    • Ability to get correct goods that you have ordered through mobile
  • What are consumers going to buy with a mobile device?
  • Mobile devices are seen as a non-trusted device
    • It is just not secure right now
    • What of authentication?
    • What of a guarantee to retailers
  • Erosion of trust
    • Need a 24-hour review and presentment of transactions done on a mobile device
    • Why not data and voice on a mobile device (just like fax and voice communication on one telephone line)?

General Considerations

  • Recommendation to be flexible:
    • per location
    • per carrier
    • per kind of transaction (and amount of transaction)
    • choice of where to bill to
    • flatfee for some things
  • Off-the-shelf solutions vs. custom-made solutions?
  • Ability to be flexible enough to form relationships with other partners—and not confused or hinder your current

Global mCommerce Issues (e.g, standards, trade policies)

  • Establishing global standards for mCommerce
  • How will regulatory issues affect global mCommerce?
  • How to deal with custom issues for cross-national transactions?
  • Idea: monopoly or regulated communications and billing vs. competitive and different kinds of communication schemes and billing: what would be better?

Quality of Service and Reliability

  • Maintaining quality of service
    • Is there a backup? Perhaps through a transaction facilitator (like Visa backs up a purchase now on a credit card).
    • Matter of trust? Who will back up? Carriers will not do this.
  • Non-repudiation

Different Models for Charging

  • Should we go with flat fees?
  • What are the merits of a subscription model?
  • Bill presentment and payment—in a mobile world (being able to pay through a mobile device)
  • Idea of the iMode Model used in Japan (i.e., tie it to the telco billing statements)
  • Smart cards could work, but
    • what about the different banks having to deal with different smart cards (France Telecom says they handle it)

U.S. vs. European Markets

  • U.S. vs. European Market approaches to mCommerce
    • Credit card vs. debit card
    • France Telecom has made strides here w/smart cards
    • Trust/Disposition toward eCommerce of consumers
    • Pre-paid cards? But, no information gathered on the consumer
    • Are pre-paid cards more secure?
    • Lack of trust for operators/carriers (why bill through them?)
    • Need a 3rd party to handle billing and transactions
    • Transaction/mediation
    • B2C: generally there is a lack of trust