WAP gains momentum
THE CEBIT SHOW in Hannover, Germany, this week is being used by mobile phone manufacturers as a showcase for the WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) standard, with Nokia, Alcatel, and Motorola among the vendors making WAP-related announcements.
Last week Nokia announced a global partnership with Amazon.com aimed at delivering commerce services to users of Internet-enabled mobile phones. Beginning in the United Kingdom, the two companies plan to roll out worldwide Internet-based mobile commerce services based on WAP.
"This partnership takes the world a major step closer to mobile commerce for consumers," said Matti Alahuhta, president of Nokia's mobile phones unit.
Nokia also took the wraps off new data-enabled mobile phone devices targeted mainly at corporate users. Mobility and the Internet are ready to merge, and mobile phone devices supporting WAP are expected to outsell notebook PCs this year, Alahuhta said.
"This is the milestone year for WAP in terms of rubber really meeting the road," added Soren Jenry Petersen, vice president of cellular mobile telephones at Nokia Mobile Phones.
Alongside WAP, one of the new models, the 6210 dual-band GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) handset, also features support for HSCSD (high-speed circuit switched data), a specification that increases the data rate of GSM networks fourfold to 43.2Kbps.
Nokia also announced that it has added WAP support to its Communicator 9110 device. The new Communicator 9110i has a large display optimized for viewing graphics and tables over WAP, Petersen said. Older 9110 Communicators can be upgraded using a WAP-enabled memory card, he added.
One Alcatel official predicted that WAP technology will start to be implemented on lower-end phones.
"WAP is not limited to the upper end of the market; we believe it's for everyone," said Jacques Combet, president of Alcatel's mobile phone unit.
The company will launch four new WAP-enabled phones this year, beginning in April, said Combet, two of which will include applications such as a diary, calendar, and contacts book. Alcatel is also working with an unnamed partner to develop software to synchronize the applications with PC messaging software such as Microsoft's Outlook and Lotus' Notes and Organizer.
The models will use Alcatel's predictive input technology, Z1, which is said to be superior to Tegic Communications' widely used T9 technology because it begins to guess a word when the first few characters have been typed, rather than waiting for it to be completed.
For its part, Motorola is demonstrating six WAP phones, which will be available beginning this spring. One of these, the Timeport P7389e, allows users to shop from their digital handset. Initially this is through a bank smart card, although Motorola will offer alternatives such as virtual wallets. The company also announced the Timeport P1088 smart phone, which will include a dual-mode browser handset with both HTML and WAP-enabled browsers.
Each line of phones will eventually have its own portal as well, Motorola officials said.