Magazine article Marketing

Telecom Rivals Line Up for WAP War

Magazine article Marketing

Telecom Rivals Line Up for WAP War

Article excerpt

The launch of the first multimedia mobile phone package from Orange this week heralds a new era in communication for UK consumers.

Apart from simple phone calls, a range of services will be available by dialling a few buttons on your handset, including banking, holidays shopping -- and maybe even voting for your MP.

According to some digital experts, internet communications via the phone, rather than the PC, could represent the future of e-business.

Mobile phone brands have been pushing this idea for months -- Orange's orangutan ads talk about a 'wire-free' future and One 2 One replaced its 'one to one conversation' concept with the wider-embracing 'Welcome 2 Your World' -- but until now, they have lacked the technology to make it a reality.

The Orange Nokia 7110e (shown right) is the first wireless application protocol (WAP) mobile to come to market, but similar packages from all major mobile companies are not far behind, and are likely to launch around Christmas, which means the main UK networks will be fighting to offer the best range of services and partnerships.

Orange, for example, is teaming up with ITN for news content, and will offer sports news from the Press Association and Sporting Life. Flextech's SceneOne web site will provide Orange users with searchable entertainment news and listings; while Thomson's Directories will offer them access to local services. Users will also have access to offers from Lastminute.com.

Next year, as the technology improves, Orange will link with Nat West to provide banking services, from balance updates to bill payments, directly from the phone's screen.

While Orange claims to have stolen a march on its competitors by launching WAP first, the other network providers say they are waiting until the technology is fully 'stable' and handsets widely available before they launch their offers.

Vodafone is currently trialling WAP with 10,000 users, and hopes to make a 'beta' version of the technology available within the next few weeks.

Vodafone will not push WAP until after Christmas, says Ian Gemer, head of product strategy for Vodafone UK. But, he adds, next year will be the crucial period for brands to establish their WAP services.

His company's package, Vodafone Interactive, will give customers the choice of receiving information either via the phone or a PC, through its own ISP and web site, thereby introducing its brand to the computer world. …

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