Orange today announced plans to trial technology for accessing Internet services using mobile phones, but analysts said the operator may be painting the future a little too Orange.
Orange is the first UK mobile operator to announce a public trial using Unwired Planet's (UP) server and micro browser technology. Cellnet and Vodafone are also known to be interested in the technology.
Using UP's technology, Orange will be able to offer a range of Internet enabled information services, such as news, weather, ticket booking and travel timetables.
Orange's chief executive Hans Snook said the trial brings the company one step closer to its vision of the wirefree future. "Orange believes that 90 per cent of voice and data will be wirefree by 2010," he added.
But analysts said that the data capabilities of wireless networks are always likely to lag behind fixed networks. "If you look at the progress with wireless technology using data traffic, yes it can do the job, but nothing revolutionary if compared with the progress of fixed network," said Dirk Bout, an analyst at Dataquest.
An operator like Vodafone is far more realistic about the current capabilities of wireless, said Bout. They recognise its shortfalls and refuse to boast about the future of wireless data, he said.
"I believe Orange is painting it a bit too rosy and not that realistically. They have that way of painting everything - Orange," he added.
The suitability of wireless data depends upon the application, said Tim Hayson, principal engineer at Orange. "If you look at the existing use of data - some of those are going to have to remain fixed in the short term. With extremely high bandwidth environments, you're still going to need fixed," he said.
UP's software uses the wireless application protocol (WAP), a set of standards created by Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and UP, and published on the Web earlier this year. The protocol includes a programming language that lets Web developers create sites suitable for viewing on mobile handsets.
Orange says commercial services based on WAP will be launched sometime next year. "I think there's a lot of useful things you could do with WAP. It allows you to do things you could only do previously by carrying a large mobile phone or a laptop PC," said Hayson.
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