M-business can be defined as the use of mobile technology in the exchange of goods, services, information, and knowledge. M-commerce, on the other hand, is the execution of transactions done on mobile equipment via mobile networks, which may be wireless or switched public networks. M-commerce represents a subset of all electronic business (e-business) transactions, both in the business-to-consumers and business-to-business areas (Whatis.com, 2002). M-business provides services that a wire-connected e-business can not provide. For example, in Finland, people can buy a soda from a vending machine via a mobile phone by dialling a special code on the mobile phone, with the cost being automatically deducted from the customer's bank account. In Frankfurt, Germany, people can locate parking spaces by dialling a number on the mobile phone. The device displays the location of the nearest empty spot, and the cost of the meter is charged on the user 's next phone bill. The basic value chain model of m-business consists of two main areas: (1) content and (2) infrastructure and services (Barnes, 2002). The area of content consists of (1) content creation, (2) content packaging, such as formatting, editing, customising, and combining, and (3) market making, such as content and service selection, etc. The area of infrastructure and services includes mobile transport, mobile services and delivery support, and mobile interface and applications, described in the following sections.

Mobile Transport

The current main network technology is the global system for mobile communication (GSM; Barnes, 2002). There are several existing network technologies such as personal communications services (PCS), personal digital cellular (PDC), high-speed circuit-switched data (HSCSD), general packet radio services (GPRS), international mobile telecommunications (IMT2000), etc. (Barnes). Currently, GSM accounts for approximately 71% of the total digital wireless market (Curran & Craig, 2001). The basic architecture of the GSM network is divided into three broad sections (Scourias, 1996).

  • Mobile station : This section of GSM consists of the mobile equipment and a subscriber identity module (SIM) card.

  • Base station subsystem : This section is composed of two parts that communicate across a standardized Abis interface (which refers to the interface between the base transceiver station (BSC) and the base station controller (BTS) ) that allows the control of radio equipment and radio frequency allocations in the BTS.

  • Network subsystem : The central component of this section, called the mobile services switching center (MSC), acts like a normal switching node of the PSTN (public switched telephone network) or ISDN (integrated service digital network). MSC provides added functionality for mobile subscribers, such as registration, authentication, location updating, handovers, and call routing to a roaming subscriber.

Mobile Service

Currently, the unique feature derived from the technology of GSM that differentiates it from older analog systems is the availability of short message service (SMS; Curran & Craig, 2001). SMS is a " bidirectional service for short alphanumeric messages " (Scourias, 1996) of up to 160 characters as well as non-text-based messages in binary format. Messages are sent between handsets via an SMS center in a store-and-forward system. The advantage of SMS compared with paging systems is the feature of having a message delivery confirmation message. Another added advantage of SMS is the ability to send and receive GSM voice, data, and fax calls simultaneously , using the signalling path to travel over and above the radio channel. Messages can also be stored in the SIM card for later retrieval (Barnes, 2002; Scourias, 1996). There are several other mobile service technologies such as multimedia message service (MMS), cell broadcast (CB), SIM application toolkit (SAT), wireless application protocol (WAP), PDA Web clipping, etc.

Mobile Interface and Applications

The development and integration of application interfaces are becoming critical to conduct mobile business due to the different nature of communications over the present technology of mobile devices compared with standard personal computers (PCs). There have been two main platforms provided by technology platform vendors (Barnes, 2002).

  • Microbrowser : This is a browser with reduced functionality as compared to those used on the standard PC, such as Netscape and Internet Explorer, to adhere to the present technologies and capabilities of mobile devices. Some of the market's microbrowser companies are: Openwave mobile browser and Nokia.

  • Operating System (OS) : The OS market mainly for personal digital assistants is dominated by Microsoft, Symbian (a consortium comprising Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia, Psion, and Matsuchita), and 3Com (which is now collaborating with Symbian).

Location-Specific Applications

There are numerous location-specific technologies that are being developed such as Bluetooth, enhanced observational time difference, time of arrival, cell of origin, global positioning system (GPS), assisted GPS, etc. (Barnes, 2002). These technologies allow conducting location-specific m-business, which is sometimes referred as positioning (p-) business. Employing the knowledge of knowing the location of the user to data mining techniques will definitely be the next stepping stone to the further development of m-business (Barnes, 2002; Deri, 2000).