You may not be impressed that a cellular telecommunication company can bring news to your phone, but what about Coke? Celcom (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd is the first mobile communications operator in the world to commercially offer its customers the chance to purchase drinks from vending machines using their cellular phones. This is certainly an innovative step in the usage of telecommunications to enhance our life. The service called "Ring-A-Coke" is a collaboration of Celcom Sdn Bhd, F&NCoca-Cola, Ericsson Business Consulting (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and WAP Portal Sdn Bhd.
Celcom Sdn Bhd, a local cellular company, was incorporate in January of 1988 as a private limited company, under the name of STM Cellular Communications Sdn Bhd. It was initially owned by STM (Syarikat Telekom Malaysia - now known as Telekom Malaysia). In September of that year, Celcom was granted a 20-year license by the Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts to establish, operate and market a cellular communications system. Today, Celcom has more that a million customers.
F&N Coca-Cola are involved in soft drinks, dairies operation and glass packaging business. F&N bottles and markets Coke, 7UP and Fanta line of soft drinks. WAP Portal Sdn Bhd is Malaysia's leading independent mobile Internet services. Ericsson Business Consulting (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd is in the business of providing end-to-end solutions in telecommunications and multimedia communications.
Ericsson Business Consulting (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and WAP Portal Sdn Bhd are partners in launching the first Malaysian commercial Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). WAP is the main worldwide industry standard for providing Internet communications and advanced services on digital mobile phones, pagers, Personal Digital Assistants and other wireless terminals. WAP Portal Sdn Bhd currently has several content partners and over 30 types of services such as directory, news headlines, sports, finance, entertainment, travel information, and email/POP3 to offer its subscribers and network partners during the trial. More services such as banking, stock trading and bill payments will be introduced and will double the current offering by the early stages of a commercial rollout.
Mr. Bistamam Ramli, Group Executive Vice-President of Celcom (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, said that Ring-A-Coke with Celcom, a service that will quench the thirst of Malaysians at the mere touch of their mobile phones, marks the first of its kind in the world.
The telecommunication technology at work in this service is as follows. Refer to figure. The customer dials a specific number on the vending machine using her cellular phone. Since this service is only offered to Celcom's customer, the call goes through Celcom's GSM cellular network to a component known as the Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) residing inside the vending machine. This RTU manages and processes the call and communicate with the vending machine to activate the beverage selection. Then, the customer needs to choose which drink she wants and the machine will dispense it. All this is done within reasonable time. The RTU will subsequently send a confirmation of the transaction via Short Message System (SMS) to a back-end system for billing purposes. SMS is a service that allows text messages be sent using cellular phones.
Starting with an initial roll-out of 30 vending machines in the Klang Valley, the collaborating companies plan to place 300 of such machines in Malaysia by the end of 2001.
"Ericsson, who has been Celcom's business partner for several years, is pleased to be able to continually play a part to enhance Celcom's mobile services. Ring-A-Coke is an exciting breakthrough, a first for Celcom, a first for Ericsson and a first for the world," said Mr. Peter Kallberg, President and Country Manager, Ericsson Companies in Malaysia.
According to Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali, CEO of WAP Portal Sdn Bhd, the company is proud to play the role of vending portal for "this exciting new service." Talking about Ericsson Business Consulting (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and WAP Portal Sdn Bhd's partnership in WAP technology, he said, " We see tremendous potential for WAP
technology to be incorporated into the local business environment, particularly in the field of e-commerce. The portal, operated by us provides the necessary infrastructure for contents from websites to be channeled to the wireless end users."
"Ring-A-Coke will add to the convenience of the public through this tie-up with Celcom, Malaysia's leading mobile communications company. We are confident that this new method of dispensing drinks from our vending machines will prove popular with the public," said Mr. Ng Jui Sia, Managing Director of F&N Coca-Cola.