WAP: What a Puzzle!

VoicenData Bureau
New Update


before the wireless Internet has been rolled out across the

world, there are reports (like the one from Ovum) warning that

the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) opportunity is closing

in. This is a good effort to lessen the hype surrounding WAP, a

protocol that tries to make Internet mobile and cellular

communication more useful by incorporating Internet access.


The way wireless Internet

has been introduced, it is not surprising that there are doubts

being aired by some experts. The first batch of WAP phones and

WAP gateways/servers released have not endeared themselves to

their buyers. While the WAP phones are quite costly, they are

still very slow in terms of data transmission at a maximum

achievable speed of 14 Kbps. With technologies, which enable

faster access of data like GPRS, Edge, and 3G around the corner,

the future possibility to upgrade current WAP phones is

uncertain. On the network side again, people who deploy openly

say that the current gateway/server offerings are highly

unstable and not easily interoperable.

While these problems can

be explained as initial snags experienced by any technology

which is being deployed for the first time, this clearly points

out that the hype people are generating around WAP may lead to a

strong backlash from users.

User Issues


Cost of WAP

services: Even if

subscribers are not charged for content and commerce services

offered through wireless Internet, if mobile operators do not

reduce their airtime costs for GSM data and SMS connection, it

is highly unlikely that wireless Internet will ever be

successful in India. Currently, a special airtime rate can be

introduced for WAP sessions to promote subscribers to buy WAP

phones and actually try out wireless Internet. The free ISP

model can also be explored, whereby access is provided free of

cost to subscribers who surf on a page which carries

advertisements. Since a mobile phone has limited screen size,

the advertisement can be in the form of a ticker line. It would

not be a bad idea for all wireless Internet access and service

providers to provide their services free for the first year of

operation just to encourage subscribers to come online on the

mobile phone.

Mobile privacy:


Mobile privacy:

Till now, a mobile number was intended to be given out to only a

few close friends and important associates. With wireless

Internet and e-mail, the subscriber suddenly finds his phone

number getting more exposed. After a few e-mails, you may start

receiving the odd e-mail you had not expected. The issue of

privacy is even more grave in the case of wireless

Internet/e-mail. Users of SMS-based mobile e-mail pay for the

e-mails received and sent by the number of characters used to

sent or receive them. If you start receiving unauthorized

e-mails, you are in for shelling out a hefty bill.

Limiting wirless

Internet access: If one

is trying to limit one’s Internet visitors to a few prescribed

sites, maximum chance is that he will not like it. Similarly,

mobile Internet service providers need to be more open and grow

the market first. The cellular service provider can easily try

to dominate over independent WAP access/service providers, by

technically allowing only those subscribers accessing its portal

and gateway to access mobile Internet. That would be unfortunate

as it would slow down uptake of usage. More the WAP-enabled

sites that a subscriber can surf on his cell phone, more will he

be attracted to go in for a WAP phone and surf the mobile



Mobile surfing

experience: The greatest

objective of mobile solution providers and mobile Internet

service providers should be to make the mobile surfing

experience a rich one. Mobile Internet’s future also depends

on how sticky can you make the hits coming from mobile phones.

Presently, WAP gateways are not able to speak to each other

efficiently in spite of WAP specifications. Also, it is not yet

easy to do a smooth conversion of HTML files into WML format to

enable the HTML pages to be also seen on phones. Browser/screen

size is another issue. How does a WAP site developer design the

WML decks (equivalent to HTML pages) to look good irrespective

of the phone screen/browser that you are seeing the decks on? If

the screens vary in size how does one keep the resolution

uniform on all sizes? The vendors need to not only tackle such

issues, they need to educate the buyers of their products, be it

the gateway/server or a phone.

Battery life of a

WAP phone: If a phone is

to be used continuously for several minutes, then battery

life certainly is an issue. Though there are talks of much more

powerful and lighter batteries called polymer lithium-ion

batteries, which will have four times longer life than current

lithium-ion batteries, it is not clear when they will come to

the market.