What to look for in a wireless application service provider depends on who your users are, what you want them to be able to do, what geographical market you are trying to hit, and other factors that account for the peculiarities of your user base. For example, if you are outfitting a sales force with mobile wireless capabilities, you might be in a position to select a single device that you think best supports your particular application. And you might be able to get away with supporting a single wireless network technology. In such cases, you would require a fairly narrow set of technical capabilities from your wireless application service provider. (It might even make sense to run your own middleware if the application and user base are well defined and isolated.)
But if your users are a broader bunch -- mobile commerce consumers at large, for example -- you have to take into consideration that they could be toting any of a dozen kinds of devices running on one of at least three types of mobile wireless networks. In such cases, you'll want to find a WASP that supports a broad array of content formats, devices and networks.
For example, if a given WASP formats content for Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones but no other devices, for the short-term, that could limit the success of your project. While millions of phones in use are WAP-enabled, many consumers may not have begun using the capabilities. Some population of users will demand WAP, though; others might use a Palm device, WinCE-based PDA or Research In Motion Blackberry pager, for example.
Also, you might require coverage from different mobile network service providers, many of whom run different types of networks. If your users are consumers, they could be using any of a number of services, so your WASP needs to support multiple network protocols. If you are serving internal users, you might be able to standardize primarily on a single technology -- for example, Code Division Multiple Access in North America. But if you have European support needs, you're likely to need GSM connectivity for your mobile application. If expanding to Asia, you might need i-Mode support. If you go the WASP route, make sure the WASP you choose supports all the formats, devices and networks that match your particular requirements.
This story, "Selecting a WASP" was originally published by Network World.