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Visa, Master or your mobile? - What's New? Visa, Master or your mobile?

02 June 2002
Written by Richard Browning

A new way of life is emerging. The many accessories that adorn the pockets of normal people are slowly being transformed into one or two items which perform all tasks. Wallets that used to carry many different notes and coins are now heading towards just one simple card with everything on it. We used to carry a mobile phone, organiser, walkman and laptop and slowly but surely the four are getting pushed together into one item.

Want a cola and no spare change? No worries!

Telstra shares this vision of combining accessories and freeing up valuable pocket space and see this as the future in our way of life. Their first effort in this regard was the “Dial-A-Coke” machines at Sydney’s Central Station, where one would dial up the number on the front of the Coke machine, the price of a Coke would then be charged to one’s mobile phone bill and a can of Coke is dispensed immediately. This was not taken overly well by the general public with only just more than 10,000 cans being dispensed between May 2001 and April 2002.

Is this because Australians didn’t like the idea of using mobile phones like credit cards or because it was only offered to non-prepaid Telstra customers (less than a third of the mobile phone population)?

In addition to the standard set of offers that comes with the “My 33” plan (free voicemail deposits, free 20-minute calls to other Vodafone numbers during off-peak, 1-second billing), you will also get 600 free SMS messages which will be given to you throughout your 6-month contractual period. This is equivalent to 100 free SMS messages per month for the first six months of your network service.

… and same goes for parking meters too!

Regardless of the proof provided by statistics, Telstra has furthered this initiative by introducing a three-month trial of a similar system - but with parking meters instead, near Bronte Beach in Sydney and on LaTrobe Street (between King & William St) in Melbourne.

At a charge of 55c on top of the parking fee, Telstra customers can pay for their parking by simply dialling the number provided on the meter with their Telstra mobile phone - with “own number sending” (or CLI) enabled - and selecting how much parking they would like. If more than 10 minutes is purchased, Telstra will send an SMS reminder of when the parking expires at no cost. The trial service is only available to post-paid Telstra Mobile and communic8 GSM customers whose mobiles have access to IDD and 1900 numbers, meaning that again only a relatively small portion of the mobile phone public is covered.

For those who would prefer solid cash (umm, coins that is), this is of course an option if you happen to come up to one of these parking meters in Melbourne’s LaTrobe Street.

As for the locals at Bronte, shopkeepers in the area aren’t all that excited about these innovative parking meters. If you don’t happen to use Telstra on your mobile phone, you will have to settle into getting a smart card to top up the parking meter instead (no, it does not accept coins!) Telstra has advised that it is the decision of the local council in the area (Waverly) to not offer coin-operated meters. So much for a smooth transition!

“Do you accept mobiles?”

If we see success in this three-month trial, the doors are well and truly open for similar projects to be popping up elsewhere. In Australia so far, this kind of technology has had slow rates of adoption, but if our market is anything like those on the other side of the word, then this is only the beginning. Smart cards next to SIM cards and not a wallet to be seen could well be the way of the future - or maybe the typical Aussie prefers the tested and true wallet/purse.

For further information:

Dial a coke @ Telstra website
m-Commerce Parking @ Telstra website

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