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Wednesday, 10 August 2011 09:25

Smartphone security and backup: a great VAS opportunity

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There is enormous potential for mobile operators to offer consumers security and management services for their smartphones, and a service launched by KDDI America suggests an intriguing possibility.

We all know that our smartphone are not secure. There have been numerous stories about vulnerabilities. Yet more and more of us are embedding smartphones deeply into our daily lives, using them for our online banking, keeping lots of valuable personal information on them: contacts, photos; and creating a big headache for our employers' IT departments by wanting to integrate them into our work environment

Fortunately technologies are available to protect smartphones from malware and hacking, and to provide backup for valuable data. For mobile operators the provision of such services represents an attractive opportunity to add value and garner additional revenues over and above the provision of connectivity and, more importantly can make customers very 'sticky' indeed.

So it can only be a matter of time before we see something offered to consumers from one or more of the Australia's three mobile network operators. Optus has dipped its toe in the water with its Smart Safe service, developed and delivered in partnership with F-Secure and offered free of charge.

Optus' first foray into smart phone security
Optus Smart Safe enables customers to back up, and store content from their mobile handset or PC/laptop and access it via the web. The service comes with 500MB of free storage, which Optus said at the announcement "may be withdrawn at any time." 10GB of additional storage costs $5.99 per month and 300GB $14.99 per month.

Telstra has gone much further than this, but only to enterprise customers. Earlier this month it launched a comprehensive service allowing organisations to manage and secure their fleets of smartphones via a web portal. The service allows an administrator, to download client software onto the mobile device. This works with software in the cloud to provide a wide range of management and security functions. At present, Telstra says, the service covers Apple, Android, Windows Phone 6.5 and Symbian operating systems, but not tablets.

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The technology underpinning the service comes from Mformation, but this is far from the complete story. Tim Webber, director of business mobility in Telstra Mobile Products, told ExchangeDaily "There are a lot of people playing in the device management area. It is a quickly evolving market and this is our first product. But this is not an exclusive arrangement we are open to any device management platform and we are looking to work with other vendors to deliver the appropriate solution to the enterprise."

However these are unlikely to be made generally available as Telstra-branded services, Webber said. "When you get into larger enterprises they have special requirements so we would be quite comfortable in partnering with some of the other solution providers to deliver a service to a large enterprise rather than taking it to market as a Telstra branded solution."

Telstra suggests consumer offering in the pipeline
Webber wasn't saying much about a service for consumers, but did suggest that something is in the pipeline. "We know that a lot of consumers are interested in this and we are looking very closely at this area but we are not in a position to announce anything at the moment," he said. "We may be able to talk about it in a couple or months."

The Mformation technology is already used by a number of major mobile operators overseas, according to Webber. "AT&T, T-Mobile Telecom New Zealand, Vodafone UK, Orange UK. They have quite a large presence in the white label market and the do not compete head on with direct players like Sybase Afaria," he said.

According to Mformation's web site its software is being used by some of the largest and most demanding mobile operators in the world "helping them increase the demand for mobile data devices and services by lowering costs, improving the customer experience and streamlining the delivery of new data services and applications."

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Mformation's technology is one component of HP's offering, announced last September. Other components come from Sweden-based Storegate AB, US-based SoonR and O3SIS, a Gemalto company based in Germany. Carlos Quaderi, director, communications & media solutions for HP South Pacific told ExchangeDaily when it was launched: "There is a huge demand for this in Australia because you have the proliferation of devices and you have the carriers all looking to build out cloud computing strategies. They are all well advanced with those plans. I think this will generate real interest'¦The market is going nuts with the proliferation of mobility and devices and the carriers are best positioned to capitalise on that."

Another player in this market is Juniper Networks with the Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite, announced last October. It is built on technology from SMobile, a company acquired by Juniper earlier in 2010.

And Mark Iles, Juniper Network VP for ANZ, has hinted that we could see a Junos Pulse based service offered in Australia in the not too distant future. He told ExchangeDaily that, locally IBM (a Juniper channel partner) was using the system internally and: "There is another [customer] I cannot talk about." When pressed he said this would be used to offer a service to the public, adding "We have a number in play and we hope we can announce one fairly soon."

KDDI America uses security offer to lure competitors' customers
One telco that is demonstrating the intriguing possibilities of this technology is US mobile operator KDDI America. Last month it announced that it would offer, using the Junos Pulse Mobility Suite:

- Real-time antivirus protection that automatically updates and scans files received over all network connections, including email, SMS, MMS, direct download, Bluetooth, Infrared transmission and others;

- Loss and theft protection features, including remote lock and/or wipe, GPS locate and tracking, device backup and restore options, and remote alarm notification;

- Anti-spam blacklist filtering for voice and SMS communication;

- Monitoring and control features for viewing call logs, address books, SMS, emails and photos and history.

- a parental control monitoring system delivering locate, track, monitor and control features for smartphones and mobile devices used by children and teenagers.

Sounds impressive, and KDDI is offering this to its customers for free until the end of 2011. But here is where it gets really interesting: it is also offering it free to the customers of other mobile operators for 30 days.

I think you can safely say that KDDI will get a whole lot of prospective customers and that over time it might be able to persuade a goodly number to churn across. This tactic mimicked in Australia could be a distinct and highly disruptive differentiator in this highly competitive market.

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