One e-identity for online services to launch by year end

Mobile Connect, by the three local telcos, eliminates the need for multiple passwords

By year end, consumers will be able to use their mobile phone number as their e-identity for seamless login to various online content and services.

Dubbed Mobile Connect, the authentication service by the three local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 lets consumers do away with managing multiple passwords when accessing online services - in a bid to be forerunners in Singapore's Smart Nation agenda.

For starters, Mobile Connect will be incorporated into the various apps and websites of media companies FOX Networks Group and Singapore Press Holdings, food portal HungryGoWhere, travel agency WTS Travel and payment services like ez-link, eNets and Singtel Dash.

"We look forward to working with more service providers to deliver their services conveniently and securely to their customers," said M1 chief executive Karen Kooi, in a joint statement by the telcos yesterday.

Consumers will be prompted to enter their mobile number when logging in via Mobile Connect.

If consumers log in from their mobile phones, their telcos will verify over the cellular or Wi-Fi network that the number entered matches the credentials on the SIM card. They may be prompted to enter a code, say, for more sensitive transactions such as topping up the value in stored-value cards. When logging in via the computer or tablet, consumers may also be prompted to enter a one-time password sent to their mobile phones.

Once logged in, consumers can hop from one service provider to another without needing to enter their mobile number or code again.

"This marks the first time the industry has come together to work on a solution that brings convenience to both business owners and consumers," said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel Consumer Singapore's chief executive.

"We believe the traditional norms of managing multiple usernames and passwords will soon become history," said Mr Tan Tong Hai, StarHub chief executive.

Service providers are not charged for Mobile Connect, but it is on the cards in the future.

Mobile Connect has so far been launched by 52 operators in 29 countries, including Orange in France, Digi in Malaysia and DTAC in Thailand.

Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said: "While Mobile Connect has the potential to unite access to many online services, more sensitive e-banking and e-government transactions are likely to use a separate platform for security."

Housewife Sakura Siow, 42, is concerned that the one-time passwords can be hijacked by hackers in malware-infected phones. "I won't put all the eggs in this mobile basket in a hurry," she said.

Asked if the telcos would underwrite losses due to fraud, they said in a joint reply: "Fraud prevention is a key consideration for Mobile Connect. We will be able to share more details on how we will ensure this when Mobile Connect-supported services are launched later this year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'One e-identity for online services to launch by year end'. Print Edition | Subscribe