From: William F. Stevens <stevens@LOXINFO.CO.TH>
Subject: FWD: Asia Embraces WAP Technology
Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 5:18 AM

Fast transmission the key to success

By Lara Parpan, Singapore AFP, Bangkok Post, 24 April 2000

Mobile phone Internet access is slowly gaining ground through trials across the Asia-Pacific region, but the success of the medium will depend on faster transmission, improved content and wider acceptance of electronic commerce, analysts and industry players say.

Internet-enabled mobile phones driven by a standard knows as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) have been heralded as the way forward in the rapidly changing telecoms race, and that most of the region will eventually catch on, they said.

Japan, using telecom giant NTT DoCoMo’s system called i-mode, is already hooked on Internet assess on-the-go.

In the rest of Asia-Pacific however, most (mobile phone) users have no idea of WAP, there is a lack of content and aggressive push and marketing campaigns to the mass market, said Sandra Ng, vice-president for communications at information technology research firm International Data Corp (IDC).

WAP is the first step towards international mobile Internet and third-generation (3G) technology, which will combine high-speed access and Internet-protocol based services, enabling a user to view video while browsing the Internet.

Current WAP access is text-based, being too slow for video and graphics.

There is also a dearth of WAP-powered devices and high-speed transmission, Ng said at a recent information technology forum in Singapore.

In Japan, 6.11 million subscribers have snapped up the Internet-enabled mobile phones of NTT DoCoMo since February 1999.

The popularity of NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode service has been so overwhelming that the company was forced last week to curb their sales to reduce pressure on its overburdened network.

But Internet-compatible mobile phones will soon catch on in the rest of Asia, IDC said, citing trials of such phones in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore, with commercial operations expected to begin this year.

More than 300 companies worldwide are involved in the WAP Forum, which hopes to harmonize standards for WAP, and initiatives are underway to develop products and services for wireless Internet and mobile electronic commerce.

The WAP Forum estimates the number of mobile phone users is expected to reach 500 million worldwide by 2003, with 75% of all those phones Internet-enabled by that year.

Ericsson is more bullish, estimating one billion users of mobile telephony by 2004 and some 600 million mobile Internet subscribers worldwide.

Ng of IDC said the expected boom in electronic commerce, whether through retailing or business-to-business transactions, will also drive Internet-enabled mobile phone use in Asia-Pacific since they are more secure than credit cards.

Telecom equipment manufacturers Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia announced this month a joint venture to develop an open and common industry framework for secure mobile electronic transactions to boost users’ confidence and encourage faster adoption of mobile electronic commerce.

The most important thing that is needed to get all these consumers to start using mobile e-commerce is a standard, which makes it safe and easy to use, said Jan Ahrenbring, vice-president for marketing and communications at Ericsson Mobile Communications.

US-based electronic commerce and general management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group said wireless devices would be the most common form of Internet access due to the increasing rate of cellular phone and Internet use in the Asia-Pacific region.

The spread of wireless access means online retailers will have to meet the new needs of these customers—mothers, businessmen on the run, single working women—with new services, said Boston Consulting Group in a recent comprehensive study of online retail sales in the region.

Given the access speed and display limitations of wireless technology, web sites will need to streamline their sites for simplicity and efficiency to satisfy those consumers, it added.

The group estimates that the region’s Internet retail market, led by Japan, South Korea and Australia, would more than double to $7 billion in 2000 as more Asian-based sellers go online.

Online stock trading is expected to lead the bulk of electronic transactions on mobile phones once it catches on in Asia, it said.

Brokers in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are already supporting trading over mobile phones.