WAP usage doubles in 12 months

WAP, the black sheep of mobile data, is finally coming into its own thanks to better handsets and faster GPRS connections

The phones get smarter and the connections get faster, and the result is a dramatic rise in the use of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol).

The number of pages accessed via WAP-enabled mobiles and PDAs this year has doubled since 2003 to 22.5 million impressions. And there are now a hefty 25 million mobile Internet-enabled handsets in the UK alone.

Figures released by the Mobile Data Association (MDA) show that use of the most popular mobile data services, including SMS, MMS and WAP, have all doubled over the past year and it expects WAP traffic to reach eight billion impressions by the end of 2004.

WAP is finally making some impact now that mobile phone manufacturers, such as Sony Erricson, are creating more user-friendly WAP icons with bigger colour screens. GPRS also allows pages to be quickly downloaded.

Unlike Web surfers, who spend a lot of time surfing a variety of different types of content, MDA's research found that people tend to use WAP to go to specific sites and retrieve content such as polyphonic ring tones, television guides, transport information and business listings.

According to MDA, the increasing popularity of WAP means network operators are expected to increase their investment in WAP services.

For example, Orange is currently using WAP to keep subscribers informed about free offers and competitions, and to allow users to use WAP to subscribe to SMS services such as sports updates or business news. On the media side, music group Chrysalis is planning to launch a WAP service to exploit the growing market for ring-tone downloads in Western Europe, which it says was worth $1.1bn last year.

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