Gateways supporting WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) or its precursor HDML (Handheld Devices Markup Language) microbrowsers have been installed by operators controlling 73 per cent of Asia-Pacific's mobile phone subscriber base. But other microbrowsers promise competition should WAP stumble, according to a new study from market researcher Gartner Group (US).
In Japan, NTT DoCoMo, which accounted for 17 per cent of total Asia-Pacific mobile phone subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2000, uses a different solution -- cHTML (Compact Hypertext Markup Language). Japan's J-Phone Communications Co. Ltd., with 5 per cent of Asia-Pacific subscribers, is using its own MML (Mobile Mark Up Language)-based browser.
Microsoft's Mobile Explorer product, which can also support WAP, has been implemented in South Korea by Korea Telecom Corp.'s KT Freetel and its recently acquired partner Hansol M.com Inc., which together control the final 5 per cent of the non-WAP Asia-Pacific customer base, Gartner said in a statement issued last week.
All the microbrowser technologies are designed to enable data transfer applications such as e-mail and Web surfing through mobile phones.
With operator support delivering the promise of large user bases, WAP and WAP-compatible application support is also building worldwide, with both HDML inventor Phone.com Inc. and Nokia Corp. indicating that they have more than 100,000 registered developers worldwide, Gartner said in the study.
But WAP has yet to win the widespread loyalty of end users, who will adopt any solution that meets their performance and content needs, according to Gartner.
If improvements to WAP's disappointing early performance do not arrive within six months, operators will consider alternative solutions. In particular, the I-mode system used in Japan may break into other Asia-Pacific markets and challenge WAP, Gartner said in the study.
Faster data transfer rates next year through GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) will help WAP's performance. But GPRS still needs to clarify issues including dimensioning, IP (Internet Protocol) addressing, handset interoperability and billing, Gartner said.
In the interim, and for certain services and segments, operators may also choose the popular SMS (Short Message Service) technology used for text-based messaging as a data carrier or extend the life of circuit-switched services through technologies that improve dial-up times or data throughput, Gartner said.