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Prism powers ABSA-MTN cellular banking service


Johannesburg, 31 Aug 2000

The MTN-ABSA launch last week of SA`s first totally secure, fast, multifunction wireless banking service was made possible through technology provided by JSE-listed Prism Holdings.

While the world went wild about WAP, Prism tempered its WAP focus with development of a little heralded, complementary technology - WIG (Wireless Internet Gateway).

MTN recently invested R10-million for the implementation of a state-of-the-art WIG server from Prism. It`s this server which enables totally secure banking services over the GSM cellular network.

Rob Reynolds, Group Executive for Sales and Marketing at MTN states that the WIG platform enables MTN to offer customers transactions like electronic payments and transfers 24 hours a day irrespective of the location of the customer and with a very high level of security. Prism, MTN and ABSA saw the huge potential of this service and have worked tirelessly over the last six months to deliver to the market place, a service that leads the way for mobile commerce.

The service is also a first for millions of local cellphone users who don`t yet have access to expensive WAP-enabled handsets.

In addition, because WIG makes use of SMS technology to deliver information - unlike WAP, which uses the voice/data channel, ands is relatively slow over the current GSM network - it`s much faster and less expensive to use in terms of call costs.

WIG was developed by AcrossWireless, a Swedish company acknowledged as the global leader in the development of wireless Internet-based service platforms.

According to Steven Sidley, executive director: group sales at Prism Holdings limited, MTN also utilised Prism`s expertise in the electronic financial security arena to develop a security infrastructure which would allow the cellular network provider to offer transactive applications that satisfy the risk management requirements of financial institutions.

"This was followed by MTN partnering Absa in the development of cellphone banking, and Prism was contracted to merge the MTN WIG security infrastructure with Absa`s.

"In addition, Prism provides MTN with the special 32-bit SIM cards required for the application. These SIM cards contain the mini-browser which interfaces with the user as well as the WIG security module," he explains.

Sidley points out that the WIG system complements Prism`s, MTN`s and Absa`s efforts in the WAP arena, as it can be seamlessly upgraded to accommodate WAP in the future.

"WAP is a technology ahead of its time. It`s too slow and too expensive at present for the majority of potential users. There are also some inherent security problems with the technology which still have to be resolved.

"In the meantime, WIG allows organisations to take a leading position in the wireless commerce arena," Sidley concludes.

By means of GSM, transactions like electronic payments and transfers can take place 24 hours a day irrespective of the location of the customer.

"ABSA saw the huge potential of this service and we have worked tirelessly with MTN over the last six months to deliver to the market place, a service that leads the way for mobile commerce. It`s an absolute winner".

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