Many studies and estimates are available today that suggest the number of wireless Internet users will soon surpass the millions of wired Internet users. The assumption is based on the many more millions of worldwide cell phone users who are already out there, a population that grows by the thousands every day. If every one of these mobile users chooses to access the Internet through a cell phone, indeed that population could easily exceed the number of wired Internet users by several times. It is this very enormous potential that has many businesses devoting substantial resources and investments in the hopes of capitalizing on this growing industry.
The wireless Internet is still very young. Many mobile phone users do not yet have access to the Internet through their cell phones. Many are taking a "wait-and-see" attitude toward available services. Most who do have wireless Internet access are early adopters experimenting with the potential of what this service could provide. Because of the severe limitations in the wireless devices — the tiny screens, the extremely limited bandwidth, as well as other issues — most users who have both wired and wireless Internet access will admit that, for today, the wireless devices will not replace their desktop computers and notebooks anytime soon as their primary means of accessing the Internet. Many admit that "surfing the Net" using a wireless device today could become a disappointing exercise. Most of these wireless Internet users have expressed the following frustrations:
It is too slow to connect to the Internet.
Mobile users can be disconnected in the middle of a session when they are on the move.
It is cumbersome to type out sentences using a numeric keypad.
It is expensive to use the wireless Internet, especially when billed on a per-minute basis.
There is very little or no graphics display capabilities on wireless devices.
The screens are too small and users have to scroll constantly to read a long message.
There are frequent errors when surfing Web sites (mainly because most Web sites today are not yet wireless Internet compatible).
At the time of this writing, the one notable exception to these disappointments is found in Japan. The telecommunications provider NTT DoCoMo has experienced phenomenal growth in the number of wireless Internet subscribers, using a wireless application environment called i-mode (as opposed to the wireless application protocol, or WAP). For many in Japan, connection using a wireless phone is their only means of accessing the Internet. In many cases, wireless access to the Internet is far cheaper than wired access, especially in areas where the wired infrastructure is expensive to set up. i-mode users have the benefit of "always online" wireless connections to the Internet, color displays on their cell phones, and even graphics, musical tones, and animation. Perhaps Japan's success with the wireless Internet will offer an example of what can be achieved in the wireless arena, given the right elements.