Modem runs data over GSM

Von Nano Mothibi

The first product to transmit data over GSM voice was launched in Johannesburg, last week, by a Cape Town-based technology research and development company, IWise.

The new product, called Data Over Voice (DOVe), uses various security and authentication techniques, enabling the solution to authorize a transaction in just over five seconds.

?DOVe works over any network in any country, irrespective of where the call is being made -- it is not affected by roaming requirements, and does not rely on new-generation mobile networks,? says IWise MD, Russell Hawkins.

?Mobile GSM technology can be faster, more convenient, more reliable, more secure and more cost-effective in Electronic Funds Transactions (EFT). EFT switching companies now have a new alternative,? he said.

The system uses a GSM modem at the merchant?s point of sale terminal to initiate the call. A GSM router at the transaction switching company calls the merchant back, and establishes a secure, encrypted, authenticated session. This can be carried out over the GSM voice channel, using a variety of technologies.

The product is specifically developed for short, low-data rate transactions and, the company says, is 25 percent cheaper than GPRS, and inherently more secure. It can also send voice and data simultaneously. Regarding redundancy, the modem is designed to switch to an alternative network in the event of a GPRS or network failure.

The company says the advantage of DOVe is that because it works over the GSM voice channel, companies doing transaction switching can deploy devices at any place where there is a GSM network. It also deploys a prepaid sim card at the merchant, as opposed to a contract sim, which is vulnerable to theft or abuse. DOVe is targeted at the EFT switching organizations that manage card clearances on behalf of merchants, as these are the areas with a high exposure to downtime. It will, at a later stage, approach the health, gaming and other sectors, where it has identified potential for the usage of the product.

Hawkins argues that: ?In Africa there is not a solid drive for data services, SA is unique in this case but, although we can run data on GSM, there is a lack of capacity to sustain all the transactions that take place while it remains very expensive. Most of the African market still relies on running voice and not data. We, therefore, aim to launch a drive, together with the financial sector, to create a cashless African society.?

As it is, IWise has been approached by countries such as India, Nigeria, Tanzania and Morocco, where people need to transact, have no infrastructure, but have GSM as a common standard. The product supports all GSM platforms, including 3G, and is capable of processing 38kbps.