Visiting WAP guru sketches new landscape

Mobile Internet will demand a more active role in managing services, and cutting off spam, from carriers like Telecom and Vodafone, according a key figure in the WAP world.

The move to mobile Internet will demand a more active role in managing services from carriers like Telecom and Vodafone, according a key figure in the WAP world.

Chuck Parrish, the co-founder of Phone.com and vice chairman of the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) Forum board, said in his keynote speech at Sydney Internet World last week that the unfolding of the mobile Internet market would be quite different to fixed Internet.

"Push services, which were a flash in the pan on the desktop, will be extremely important in the mobile space. But if you're the customer, you're going to forget your password, you won't remember where you signed up for all your different notification services. And you're going to be turned off the whole thing unless you can go to a single place and ask your carrier to turn off this or that service - or all of them."

Parrish said the same applied to unsolicited junk email, which would be even more onerous over the phone than on the desktop.

"Carriers must manage spam to WAP. They ought to be able to see those message patterns coming and stop them."

Wireless carriers are likely to embrace a more active role in WAP services, he said: "They will want to get value and loyalty from customers - and not just be like ISPs."

Parrish, whose company has been developing both client and server software for mobile Internet since 1995 - both of which are being used by Telecom in its new WAP trial - also played down the hype over high-speed 3G networks. He said said mobile phone applications can't yet be designed with high-speed services in mind.

As auctions for 3G spectrum approach in New Zealand, the potential for high-speed mobile Internet services has been a talking point. But Parrish said the speed factor was often misunderstood.

"With 3G you're going from the 12-14Kbit/s data services available now, to 384Kit/s," said Parrish. "But the reality is that that 384Kbit/s is a shared channel, like an Ethernet network, and you're likely to have 10 people using it. A more realistic expectation of bandwidth would be around 38Kbit/s."

Improvements in the efficiency of of the basic Internet protocols would help, said Parrish, but the onus would still be on WAP developers to make their applications bandwidth-efficient.

"High-bandwidth services will also mean faster processwors, drawing more power. But the part of the phone that does not progress along with Moore's Law is the battery. That's still limited by chemistry."

He said another factor would be the high price per minute charged by carriers to recoup the costs of deploying their 3G networks.

Of the handsets themselves, Parrish said that WAP no longer stood for 'Where Are the Phones?'. Although Telecom and Vodafone have begun to distribute WAP-enabled phones as part of their trials, the Wellington developer Catalyst IT has recently completed several "WAPplications" without the use of the handsets they were designed for.

"There are now plenty of phones in volume production," said Parrish, who expects the mobile Internet user base - including non-WAP services such as Japan's iMode - to grow from 10 million worldwide to 100 million in the next 12 months, as 80% of phones ship with WAP capability.

Typically, he said, "native" Internet content will be created in XML and then rendered by a gateway server for delivery in the WAP-friendly WML, HTML or other formats, to a range of Internet-capable devices.

Phone technology was advancing rapidly, Parrish said, and handsets with the same screen resolution as a Palm PDA were already available, "and MP3 players in phones are not too far away."

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