The Bottom Line on WAP
The Internet age is upon us, and wireless operators the world over are racing to optimize their networks for the coming data-driven future.
It has been projected that by 2003, more people will access the Internet via a mobile device than a PC, and that 10% to 15% of the mobile phones sold in the year 2000 will be Internet-capable. Those wireless subscribers will demand convenient and efficient access to a dazzling new spectrum of news, entertainment and mobile content.
To deliver on the promise of mobile Internet, carriers must have Web-enabled networks that offer open, global interoperability. They must build data-ready billing, marketing and customer-care functions into their wireless networks. And to stay one step ahead in an increasingly competitive wireless marketplace, they must start building and launching data-ready wireless networks now.
WAP will encourage the development of universal Internet-based technology and services while opening a clear migration pathway to the 3G data networks of tomorrow.
THE CASE FOR WAP WAP opens the pathway to what some call total mobility. WAP was developed in 1997 to provide a universal open standard for delivering Internet-based data to mobile phones and other wireless devices. By streamlining the content delivered to mobile devices, WAP optimizes that information for the mobile environment.
WAP gives carriers a chance to differentiate themselves in their increasingly crowded and competitive markets. Analysts say that because WAP-based services are convenient, universal and secure, this new standard will help boost subscriber usage and loyalty. WAP also will enable carriers to offer devices that feature longer device battery life, download speeds up to four times faster than traditional protocols and that deliver a growing range of popular and profitable value-added services.
Carriers can leverage these powerful advantages by teaming with a WAP provider who can deliver field-proven, end-to-end WAP technology, including servers and applications, mobile communications devices and the technical experience needed to create customized solutions.
But to fully realize the bottom-line benefits of the WAP revolution, we first must understand its core objective and break through the misconceptions that have sprung up around this new standard.
INTEROPERABILITY: THE TRUE OBJECTIVE The idea behind WAP is to develop wireless Internet solutions that are open, non-proprietary and fully interoperable.
True WAP technologies do not depend on a single mobile device or network operator. They work seamlessly across various wireless networks and allow applications to scale easily across multiple transport options and mobile devices. The WAP standard integrates terminal-resident and network services to telephony, communications applications, information services and operator services. The WAP architecture itself constitutes the de-facto standard client to the World Wide Web.
The WAP Forum, an industry association working to refine and promote this de-facto world standard, discussed interoperability and WAP compatibility at a recent member gathering in Sydney, Australia.
That group identifies two key levels of interoperability: device-to-device compatibility and application-level issues. At the device or gateway level, various manufacturers now are working to ensure interoperability among their handsets and terminals. Work also is being done at the application level to ensure that various devices, which may render content in dramatically differing ways, all can operate smoothly under the emerging WAP standard.
The WAP Forum's goal is to provide crucial interoperability standards, testing parameters and certification tools. The forum also will maintain a program for developers intending to make use of the WAP logo to validate the WML-compliant content used in WAP. Those and other interoperability tools are expected to be in place by 2Q2000.
By creating a single, open standard, WAP decreases the barriers and risk to market entry for equipment manufacturers. Open interoperability also encourages the development of WAP-enabled wireless content, including news, entertainment and financial updates. WAP interoperability allows carriers to offer customized services to narrow market segments, to build brand loyalty and to reduce churn.
Of course, to reach its true potential, WAP interoperability testing must include not just content, but browsers, servers and mobile devices themselves. Network and equipment manufacturers that are working in the spirit of WAP support this open approach and encourage partnerships between carriers and content providers. Those offering "partial WAP" or thinly veiled proprietary solutions are in fact sending their carrier customers down a mobile Internet dead end.
End-to-end interoperability is crucial to the ultimate success of worldwide Internet mobility, and carriers seeking on-the-move Internet connectivity should demand nothing less than true WAP capabilities.
DISPELLING THE MYTHS As with many emerging and highly competitive niches, a number of troubling misconceptions have sprung up regarding WAP. To fully understand the promise and potential of WAP, let's first clear the decks of these troubling misperceptions.
First, not every device that claims WAP-compliance can meet that standard. Some supposed WAP phones communicate only to non-WAP browsers, or they add features that extend beyond and essentially negate the WAP standard. These devices are in reality proprietary solutions that lock carriers into single-manufacturer technologies. To ensure the freedom of pure WAP interoperability, carriers should seek devices that can access the Internet with a true WAP 1.1 or subsequent microbrowser.
Availability also is a key issue for carriers seeking end-to-end WAP solutions. Some suppliers claim to offer a WAP product family when they have yet to deliver a single true WAP-compliant product. To ensure they invest in truly open, interoperable mobile Internet solutions, carriers should examine compatibility claims using guidelines established by the WAP Forum (www.wapforum.org).
Developers also should be wary of efforts to promote the use of proprietary syntax such as HDML to write Internet-based content for wireless applications. Tools using HDML by their nature force carriers to use single-manufacturer servers and browsers. That defeats the purpose of the global WAP standard and can lead to costly and frustrating proprietary dead ends. HDML is not synonymous with or comparable to the WML used in the WAP standard. For a platform to be WAP-compliant, it must be open and use the current WML language syntax.
Other critical WAP-vs.-proprietary issues include support for wireless bit-map images, full device independence and development based on XML, the language syntax W3C is using as the basis for next-generation Internet content development.
No single company can claim credit for the creation or success of WAP or of the WAP Forum. Rather, the WAP Forum is an industry association of more than 200 members, including AT&T, IBM, MapQuest, Microsoft, Nokia and others. Originally co-established by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Phone.com, the WAP Forum membership now includes manufacturers representing 95% of the mobile-handset marketplace serving more than 100 million subscribers worldwide.
WAP EVOLUTION WAP standards continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of wireless communications. WAP 1.0 was introduced in mid-1998 for industrial trials. WAP 1.1 standards were effective in June 1999 and mature enough for commercial products. WAP 1.2 standards were in effect by December 1999. WAP 1.2 will provide true push, which is better than Internet polling push technologies. WAP 1.2 also provides specifications for telephony functionality, interoperability testing and user-agent profiles, which will make it possible to identify different features for different devices.
As wireless operators plan the move to data-focused networks, the refinement of the WAP standard constitutes a first important step towards theGPRS future. GPRS will allow consumers to communicate more quickly, to connect permanently, and to use higher and more cost-effective data speeds.
WAP opens a clear and efficient evolutionary pathway to 3G and mobile Internet capabilities. It facilitates the introduction of data-focused marketing strategies, billing and customer-care systems -- technologies that create the foundation of any next-generation wireless network. More organizations now recognize the clear benefits offered by WAP.
The question is now: How do you bring WAP to your wireless network?
When selecting a WAP technology provider, carriers should first and foremost seek partners who can deliver comprehensive and fully tested WAP solutions. Carriers need open WAP platforms that give them true WAP openness and interoperability. They want a WAP server that provides direct application hosting, a strong GUI gateway, push capabilities, security and access controls. Carriers also should evaluate software that will allow them to write, test and de-bug WAP-based mobile Internet applications quickly and easily.
That's a tall order. But that's what it takes to build the networks of tomorrow.
As mobile users grow in numbers and sophistication, they will demand the communications power and convenience of the wireless Internet. Carriers that wait will surrender this opportunity to their more aggressive competitors. Those that act now will reap the considerable rewards of total mobility.
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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