SET trials to start in Australia, Malaysia, Korea

The Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) effort will gain momentum next month when the SET partners start three new trials in the Asia-Pacific region, an official involved in the trials says. The trials come at the iniative of one SET partner, Visa, which is also running trials in Japan Taiwan and Singapore.

The Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) effort will gain momentum next month when the SET partners start three new trials in the Asia-Pacific region, an official involved in the trials says.

In August, trials of the SET protocol for Internet-based transactions will begin in Australia, South Korea and Malaysia, according to Mark Cullimore, director of electronic banking for the Asia-Pacific region at Visa International . Visa and its partners are already running SET trials in Japan, Singapore and Taiwan.

The new efforts come as Visa is trying to quickly gain a critical mass of regional companies, consumers and technology vendors using the protocol.

"We need to get a log of consumers and merchants up in a hurry," he says. "The Internet was 25 years in the making. We can't have that in payments."

The SET specification describes a method for securing and authenticating the parties involved in credit card purchases over the Internet. It was originally developed by companies including Visa, MasterCard Microsoft, IBM and Netscape, and version 1.0 was published in May.

SET was criticised at first for being limited to the US by not addressing certain international payment issues. In release 1.0, however, the protocol includes support for local payment options in other countries including Japan, he says.

In addition, as the movement has matured, vendors have gained a better understanding of what is required to build systems to support the protocol. In particular, it was difficult to gauge the hardware and software resources that would be required to build a payment gateway, or to define the actual payment system that would handle encryption, decryption and signature certification.

Such a gateway initially was thought to be prohibitively expensive. But vendors now have discovered that the costs are reasonable when measured against the potential returns of putting resources into gateway building, he said.

"A few months ago, that uncertainty held a few people back," Cullimore says. "Now there is better understanding."

In Malaysia, the SET group is readying two trials, one focused on consumer transactions and the other targeting small and medium-size businesses, he says. The latter trial will be up and running by the end of October,

By the end of the year, Visa expects the Taiwan and Singapore trials each to have up to 12,000 consumers, with roughly 50 participating merchants in Taiwan and up to 100 in Singapore, he says.

In other countries, meanwhile, Visa is laying the groundwork for SET trials for small groups and individual banks. The company is negotiating such deals in countries including Indonesia, the Philippines and China, he said.

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