Andres Llana, Jr.
It is projected that in 2003 there will be over 400 million Internet subscribers and 600 million mobile phone users. As a result of this expansion, there will be a growing demand for wireless data services with a corresponding demand for quick access to information from any location; hence, the watchword of "anytime, anywhere." While WAP does provide access to the Internet, a "killer" application has not yet made an appearance.
Behind this rapid growth in the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) has been the WAP Forum. The WAP Forum began in December 1997 as an industry association to develop, support, and promote a world standard for wireless information and services accessed via a digital mobile telephone or similar wireless device. The WAP Forum was chartered to bring together service providers, handset manufacturers, Internet content providers, applications developers, and infrastructure manufacturers to ensure interoperability between devices and promote the growth of wireless Internet-based service (see Figure 8.1). The WAP Forum has over 300 regular members plus associate members, including handset manufacturers representing over 95 percent of the market, carriers with over 150 million customers, infrastructure providers, software developers, and other related industries.
WAP-enabled pagers are fast becoming a way to send messages back and forth over the Internet. Today, there are many regional and national pager carriers that offer short messaging services using a Palm Pilot or one of the popular Motorola devices such as the Talkbout or Timeport. These must be a viable service because they have been very popular with teenagers since they found that they can send messages back and forth to their friends. Teachers have now banned them from classrooms because obviously they can be used to cheat on tests.
The costs vary from service carrier to service carrier. Generally, the devices range from $149 to $400, in addition to an access fee of about $18 per month for up to 25,000 characters; extra messages above this cost $0.01 per 100 characters. The subscriber is given an 800 number that can be accessed by other similar devices to send messages to the subscriber. For those who do not have such a device, an operator, who will manually key in any desired messages, can be accessed through an 800 number. The subscriber pays about $10 per month for this service for up to 30 such messages and $0.65 for additional messages above the 30-message rate.
Generally speaking, these services have become quite popular because the per-call costs are very low and the subscriber can be reached anywhere in the United States, and there are carriers overseas that can be used to extend services. The bottom line is that short messaging services are more cost effective than WAP-enabled telephones.
The WAP Forum maintains liaison with other industry organizations to include the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the Worldwide Web Consortium, and the Internet Engineering Task Force. All are actively working with the Forum to evolve the next-generation HTML (HTML-NG).
WAP also is being enhanced to address the 3G wireless networks that will support fully packetized information transmission.