Flexibility the key to greater consumer uptake of WAP

WHAT is WAP? It is, after all, a term that has become a buzzword in many business circles.

Technically WAP stands for Wireless Application Protocol, but one of the best descriptions of the technology comes from Vodafone’s Gino Lamelza, who calls it “Internet on the run”.

While it has a fancy name, it is really just another way of transferring and accessing data.

It gives people the ability to access the Internet through their mobile phones.

However, given the size of a mobile phone’s display, browsing standard websites is not an option, so users have to access specially designed WAP sites.

WAP also remains a reasonably expensive service to use, costing about 44 cents per minute.

When the General Packet Radio Service is introduced in Australia, expected late this year or early next year, WAP users will only be charged for what they download, so the cost will go down.

And while WAP has become a business buzzword, it is yet to fully meet its potential as a tool.

Telstra wireless data solutions managing director Craig Cameron said the most popular way of tranferring data at the moment was using the Short Message Service – which allows transmission of up to 160 characters of text.

“There are quite a lot of businesses using SMS. One company in the transport business uses it to notify their customers if they’re running a few minutes late,” he said.

“It’s a very simple technology but one that is really exploding at the moment.”

But Mr Cameron said that, by the middle of next year, most of the new business telephony applications would involve WAP.

“It’s a way of providing business people with flexibility they’ve never had before,” he said.

“Over time we’ll see customers demanding more complex things from the service.”

Mr Cameron said the functionality of WAP would increase when personal digital assistants became Internet able. Cards to allow that are expected by the end of the year.

One advantage of a PDA over a mobile phone is the size and resolution of its screen. What limits the browsing ability of a mobile phone becomes less of a problem with a PDA.

Shipping company P&O already has applied WAP technology to give its customers the ability to track their shipments via their mobile phones.

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