EU official says future WAP worth the wait

A top European official has criticised the developers of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) phones, that give users mobile access to the Internet, for failing to consider consumer needs.

          A top European official has criticised the developers of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) phones, that give users mobile access to the internet, for failing to consider consumer needs.

          "WAP is an example of a good technology for which no one ever asked: What is it for," says Joao da Silva, head of the European Commission's unit dealing with mobile and satellite communications.

          The industry "has failed to address the key aspect of what the consumer would do with the new technology," he said in an interview at a one-day seminar here dealing with the future of wireless technologies.

          "WAP won't fail. There will be WAP II. It will be like the introduction of other technologies like GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) -- painful at the beginning," Da Silva says.

          The business model applied to the WAP roll out has been at fault, he says. It was a mistake to launch the technology using metered billing because this doesn't suit the way people are likely to use WAP, he says. It will make more sense when WAP phones charge for data packages downloaded, rather than by time, he says.

          Focusing on consumers in the future was the main theme of Da Silva's keynote speech to the 200-strong audience of academics, industry experts and Commission officials Tuesday. The seminar was co-arranged by the Commission and the Wireless Strategic Initiative (WSI), a think tank including leading European mobile phone operators such as Siemens AG, Nokia Corp. and L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co.

          "As we look beyond third-generation mobile phones, it's not just higher capacity, higher data rates we should consider," Da Silva says. The industry should move forward "with the user at the center of the picture."

          Industry representatives agreed. "Technological progress will only work if it helps consumers," says Norbert Niebert, head of Ericsson's German unit Ericsson Eurolab Deutschland.

          Users should be able to choose the system they want.

          "I don't like the name 'fourth generation.' We see an integration of platforms after the third generation," Da Silva says.

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