Mobile operators need to invest heavily in developing compelling Wap services or run the risk of a customer backlash.
According to a report from research company Ovum, the hype generated by Wap has led to a user expectation that is totally out of touch with reality.
Many customers expect to replicate on their mobile phones their experience of the internet on the PC, warns Ovum. Users expect graphics, colour and video, and it is up to the mobile operator to control user expectation of what services can actually be delivered, said the researcher.
In reality, most Wap services are text-based, screens and keyboards are small, connection and browsing is slow, and call charges, particularly during peak times, quickly add up. Broadband, 'always on' networks should ease some of these problems, said Ovum.
These higher speed packet-switched networks will enhance the market of Wap, but the window of opportunity for operators and content providers is now, said the researcher.
"Operators and content providers can't afford to wait for better technology," said Michele Mackenzie, an analyst at Ovum. "They can act now by moving beyond the hype and playing to the strengths of Wap. They must become wireless data champions and encourage adoption by delivering really compelling and innovative applications."
According to Ovum, Wap alone will not be enough to seduce users. Other technologies are needed including location-based services, message management, so-called push services, security and short message services.
However, Wap technology and services is expected to be the core driver behind wireless internet over the next two years. But the market's focus on Wap as a technology will be eroded through the emergence of new mark-up languages under the XML standard, and Wap will become indistinguishable in its own right by 2003 to 2005.
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