The advanced operating system bequeathed to the smart card world by the creators of Mondex has gained a major endorsement Down Under.

Telstra, Australia's leading telecommunications company, announced Tuesday that it is joining Maosco Ltd., the London-based consortium that shepherds the multiple-application operating system known as Multos.

Like many telephone companies around the world, Telstra already has some smart card experience under its belt. Its support for Maosco serves to diversify the group's membership and add to Multos' momentum.

In common with many aspects of chip card development, Multos is little evident in the United States, the largest of all plastic card markets. But the system appears to be gaining strength elsewhere as banks and other service providers seek to take advantage of Multos security features, including the firewalls that prevent the multiple services on a card's chip from interfering with each other.

Telstra is the first telecommunications provider in Maosco. The group is a mix of technology vendors such as the Siemens subsidiary Infineon, Hitachi and Fujitsu of Japan and Fujitsu's ICL and Amdahl affiliates, and card organizations such as American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services. Mondex International and its parent, MasterCard International, share a seat on the board and otherwise have ceded governance of the specifications to the group.

Telstra is the second Australian corporation to join, following the terminal manufacturer Keycorp (no relation to the U.S. banking company of the same name).

The addition of Telstra "is a clear sign that Multos is much more than a platform for financial applications," said Maosco chief executive officer Nick Habgood. "Forward-thinking organizations such as Telstra are viewing Multos as an integral and flexible part of their delivery infrastructure and e-commerce strategy."

Telstra is one of several telephone companies that have worked with Multos in the area of digital certificates and public key infrastructure.

Mr. Habgood said "a couple more high-quality names" could still be added to Maosco. He said 3 million Multos cards will be issued by yearend and at least 20 million more are in the pipeline.

Elsewhere, Canada's second Mondex pilot program, which officially opened last month in Sherbrooke, Quebec, has Multos at its core. Posten SDS, the technology service bureau that is the majority shareholder of the Mondex Norway franchise, recently took advantage of the multiple-application capability to demonstrate how a national lottery program could combine with electronic cash and secure personal identification on a single card.

Posten SDS and the companies it worked with on the project -- Mondex Norway co-owner Telenor Conax, the lottery operator Norsk Tipping, Automated Wagering Inc., and silicon chip supplier Hitachi Europe Ltd. -- claimed that the ability to take wagers and pay winnings on such a smart card could revolutionize lottery operations around the world.

At a gaming trade show in Oslo, Telenor demonstrated how the payments could be transmitted via digital television.

"This will be the very first, real multi-application smart card issued by Posten SDS based on Multos," said the Norwegian company's CEO, Per Andersen.

Telstra suggested that its previous smart card applications, including the Chipper electronic purse system developed in the Netherlands, will reside on Multos cards.

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