Mobile phone-based utility applications, which facilitate transactions such as bill payments, promise to be a big m-commerce opportunity. Even a small percentage of India?s 280-million mobile user base can mean a gold rush for the application providers.These applications mark a transition of GPRS-enabled mobile phones from mere voice devices to point-of-sale entities, allowing users to search for information and perform monetary transactions, all through the mobile phone. So goodbye to long serpentine queues-users can buy air and rail tickets, pay bills and buy movie tickets-all at the press of a few buttons. A recent entrant in this mobile utility services space is MeraMobi launched by India Interactive Technologies Ltd (IITL). It joins players such as ngpay, the mobile commerce platform provided by JiGrahak Mobility Solutions. Another company, Oxigen (in which Microsoft bought a 35% stake), is involved in the aggregation of recharge, bill payments and subscriptions for telcos, internet service providers, DTH service providers, satellite radio, all under a single platform. One reason for sprouting of these utility applications is the promise that mobile phones would offer reach and convenience in a manner that a PC simply cannot match. ?We?re like a retail channel for our partners. It?s like having a mall inside your mobile phone,? said Abhijit Bose, VP, ngpay. Also, since the service is free to download and install in your phones, companies are hoping this will push GPRS usage, a key requirement for the use of these services. ?To ensure complete trust and comfort, MeraMobi does not require credit card registration. Details have to be entered only at the time of making payments and here too they do not get saved,? said Rajeev Mishra, business head, MeraMobi. ?It?s also a versatile application since it can be downloaded on more than 500 different models and services for each are customised.? Experts say that the advantage with such applications is that users need not download and store unique applications specific to a particular retailer. But it will be some time before the application providers start making substantial revenues since it is a challenge convincing advertisers to spend substantial money on this platform. ngpay?s Bose said that since these applications are retail channels, they earn a small percentage of sales revenues from the partner companies. ?Once we become a significant retail channel, our partners will devote us a higher percentage of sales revenues, in addition to a rental fee for using our application,? he said. But these applications still seem to be the tip of the iceberg right now. ?Only 8% of the GPRS-enabled phones are using it on a regular basis. Advertisers use the digital platform primarily to generate leads, and lead-generation on these utility services is just 1/12th of that on the web,? said Gautamm Mehra, business head, Mediaturf. ?It will be a task to break the psychological barrier of non-metro users of these applications, convincing them to make monetary transactions over the airwaves.?