724 Solutions Extends Reach to Carriers

Wireless application service provider moving beyond financial market.

Wireless application service provider 724 Solutions Inc., which for the past two years has focused on the financial services market, is taking its business to the carriers.

724 is planning to focus on three areas for carrier services—alerts and messaging, payments, and portals, said Dick Costolo, vice president of mobile operator strategy at the Austin, Texas, company. Costolo said carriers need ways to save money and increase revenue.

"The mobile operators have quickly decreasing air-time revenues," Costolo said. "They have everything from spectrum expenses to forced technology upgrades. ... They find that they have dramatic call center costs at the end of every month."

For starters, 724 is announcing three new platforms.

724 Alerts enables carriers to take existing SMS (Short Message Service) and instant messaging applications and extend and integrate them with other applications, officials said. Potential customers said it makes sense to do more with SMS, which is popular in Europe and is gaining ground in the United States, but which has limitations.

"SMS is pretty limited—less than 256 characters," said Erich Berman, advanced technical consultant at Northwestern Mutual, in Milwaukee, and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "A number of companies are working on stringing SMS messages together to make a real, live message." That, along with two-way SMS, will make the technology more attractive, Berman said.

724 Payments is an architecture that supports multiple payment types for wireless services, giving customers the ability to pay for services in multiple ways without a hassle and giving carriers more risk management options in terms of setting rules regarding how different customers should pay for services.

Telecom equipment provider Nortel Networks Ltd. will be selling the service on an OEM basis, with carrier services launching in the beginning of next year, officials said.

724 Frameworks is a development and run-time environment and processing engine that makes it easier for carriers to develop device-independent and multimodal applications. Aspire Technologies, a division of China Mobile (Hong Kong) Ltd., is using this service to develop a wireless portal operation that will compete against Nippon Telephone and Telegraph DoCoMo Inc.s iMode service, 724 officials said.

In the past, 724 Solutions has focused on applications for banking, brokerages and related services over a multitude of Web-connected devices, including digital mobile phones, personal digital assistants and pagers.