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Long ride on wireless wave

AMONG the car dealerships and light industry in the Perth suburb of Burswood sits a small tech company with global aspirations. Wavenet International Ltd is positioning itself to take advantage of the burgeoning wireless data market in Asia and the US.

Although yet to take off in Australia, wireless technology will soon offer a lot more than the largely unpopular WAP-enabled mobile phones. If the US market is anything to go by, businesses and consumers will soon be using wireless applications on a range of devices to send and receive emails and access the Internet.

Wavenet spent the best part of four years in research and development mode, building products like the Tsunami, Boomer and Brumby wireless modems. Its IPO in March 2000 raised $10 million at $1 a share. Shares last week were trading at 36 cents.

Wavenet managing director John Thompson said this year had been a very formative one for the company as it made the transition from R&D to commercialisation.

“After the float we did an analysis of the market to identify which sectors were in a growth phase and which markets we had the ability to gain entry into,” he said.

“We discovered hand-held devices were the ones to get into, to start generating revenue and to show the company is a quality designer that can supply in large volumes.”

One of Wavenet’s newest products is the Dualwave wireless modem for the Palm 5 personal digital assistant. The modem allows companies to instantly transmit information to their workforce while reducing the reliance on mobile phones.

But Mr Thompson believed mobile phones would become the most popular devices to transmit wireless data in the future.

“Let’s face it, the basic consumer doesn’t have a laptop or a PDA,” he said. “The first very basic wireless applications will come through mobile phones.

“In terms of enabling the laptops and PDAs, that’s in the format of executives and businesspeople. You will see a range of devices. There will be smart phones, hand-held computers and laptops. In between you might see some devices for vertical markets, such as devices which just send and receive emails.”

Wavenet also is involved in OEM modems, commonly found in wireless EFTPOS devices and vending machines. The Boomer OEM modem is used in soft drink vending machines to transmit information back to head office when stock is running low.

Mr Thompson said Australia is 12 to 18 months behind the US wireless market, and currently lacks the application developers needed to create the software to use wireless transmission.

“We haven’t seen a lot of wireless ASPs in Australia. DotWAP in Melbourne is the first wireless ASP operation I can think of in Australia.”

But Mr Thompson said there was a benefit in lagging behind the US in development – we don’t have to go through the same teething problems as the US, such as a shortage of device manufacturers.

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