UK ISP breathe.net which will change its name to breathe.com next week, is to launch a combined ISP/WAP offering with inclusive monthly billing for access to the Net or WAP content. The offering will launch 13 April with enhanced services available by the end of the month.
The service is designed to attract users to its wireless portal, the new Holy Grail on the Internet.
Subscribers will be offered a range of tariffs, which will include a specified amount of free bundled WAP calls. The service will be offered on all four mobile networks in the UK.
Sean Gardner CEO of breathe, promises that, while unable to go into specific pricing details, the service "will be quite a lot cheaper" than the networks' WAP call charges. Pressed, Gardner said he expected the service to be at least half the cost of most competitors. That would put most WAP surfing at around 5p per minute based on current tariffs.
Although BT Cellnet has announced a range of tariffs tailored to the mobile Internet, the rest of the industry has done little to allay consumers' fears over the cost of using WAP services. With the low bandwidth connection speed offered by today's GSM networks, accessing required information over the wireless process can be a costly business.
The introduction of fixed rate packages should go a long way in reassuring consumers and driving uptake of WAP services. breathe is hoping its novel approach will attract enough eyeballs to its wireless portal to give it a head start in the wireless race.
The portal wars may well be over in the wired world but the virgin landscape of the wireless world is still open to prospectors staking a claim. The mobile operators, traditional ISPs and a rash of wireless ISP start-ups are all feverishly eyeing the bookmark page on your WAP phone and dreaming of the millions of dollars the m-commerce market is expected to deliver.
The unintuitive nature of current WAP phones mean that first mover advantage is more powerful than ever. Once you have a company's portal installed on your phone it is likely to stay there.
breathe currently has over 70 content partners for it WAP services and will offer a range of information, location and transaction services.