ACL looks for instant returns

Indian mobile software developer, ACL Wireless, is planning to set up an office in the Middle East, citing growing interest in instant messaging services.

  • E-Mail
By  Richard Agnew Published  December 29, 2003

While a lot of focus has been placed on recent launches of multimedia messaging services (MMS) in markets such as the UAE, Jordan and Kuwait, mobile operators are also mulling adoption of other types of message bearers supported by packet data services, such as GPRS.

Instant messaging (IM) is one of the key technologies that they hope will reap an increasing share of messaging traffic in the future, helped by its ability to better manage text conversations and allow users to chat more effectively with multiple parties.

In August, for example, MTC-Vodafone deployed India-based vendor, ACL's Wireless Instant Messenger (WIM) solution in its mobile network in Kuwait, and claims to have been generating between four and five million messages per month since the service's inception.

Following the deal, ACL is planning to open an office in Kuwait or Dubai to help it secure partnerships with other mobile operators and local software and value added service providers.

The vendor also says that the WIM solution will shortly be extended by MTC-Vodafone to its other units in Bahrain and Jordan.

"Consumer adoption has been high," claims Sanjay Goyal, ACL's founder and CEO. "As many as 5% of the people on [MTC-Vodafone's Kuwaiti] network have signed up to the service," he adds.

WIM 3.0, the latest version of ACL's software, allows users to exchange instant text, photos and group messages in English and Arabic, search for friends on the network and chat with their 'buddies' on online messenger packages offered by Yahoo, MSN and ICQ.

But ACL is also looking to offer the solution as a communications tool for the enterprise market.

It is aiming to link up with customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendors to offer WIM as a solution for marketing and customer care.

"A typical example of this is in customer care. Enterprises and consumer-facing companies want to interact more effectively with customers. You can call a customer care centre but they can't SMS you back in real time and [communicate] with you in an interactive fashion," says Goyal.

The WIM solution is based on the vendor's wireless communication (WDC) platform, which includes support for wireless data connectivity protocols such as CIMD, CIMD2, SMPP, WAP 2.X, OTA, WDP, MM7, USSD and PAP, and is accessible via handsets and PDAs compatible with WAP/GPRS, SMS, HTTP, and WV1.1.
Its features include IM across wireless and wired networks, Arabic language compatibility, and a presence engine to allow users to manage their online and device presence and view the availability of their contacts.

A directory of contacts is also incorporated into the software, along with the ability to send multimedia content and a credit system to allow operators to charge for messages above and beyond normal data rates for GPRS access.

ACL also recently teamed up with mobility platform vendor, SmartTrust, to integrate the WIM solution onto its menu system for phones.

And along with other vendors, ACL has been working with handset and software providers under the Wireless Village Initiative, which was formed in April 2001 to develop universal specificiations to solve the lack of mobile IM interoperability.

This would allow messages and presence information to be exchanged across networks and devices.

"Handsets are in the market and the back end solution is available, so it's a matter of tieing up with operators. In six months we should see the commercial launch of a Wireless Village solution," says Goyal.

While SMS is currently the primary bearer for IM, GPRS adoption by operators is also seen as key for uptake by Goyal.

This, he says, will allow more efficient delivery of messages across mobile networks and the costs to end-users to come down in comparison to chat conversations via SMS.

"With GPRS you can have a colour interface and real time messaging, and users don't have to remember short codes. The user experience is ten times as good as SMS and the eventual cost per message for a user over GPRS is much lower," adds Goyal.

Nevertheless, the vendor says it must wait for current, low penetration of GPRS services in the region to rise.

"[WIM] was conceptualised from the point of view of GPRS. [But] most of the traffic is over SMS. Until GPRS really penetrates to double-digit numbers, some of these services do not make a lot of business sense," he adds.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code