BT Cellnet rapped over 'misleading' WAP ads

Advertising that tricks users into believing they can surf the internet on a mobile phone has put back WAP take-up in Britain by six months, according to analysts and WAP users.

Advertising that tricks users into believing they can surf the internet on a mobile phone has put back WAP take-up in Britain by six months, according to analysts and WAP users.

The attack is levelled in particular at BT Cellnet adverts featuring a digitised man on a surfboard and the tagline, 'Surf the BT Cellnet'. The company is continuing to promote its WAP offering as the "mobile internet." Tim Dillon, an analyst with telecoms consultancy Current Analysis, claimed the 'Surf the BT Cellnet' campaign has set WAP back by up to six months in the market. He said: "WAP is about simple data access, and that is what they should have said. When you over-hype, you're left with disappointed customers." Graham Brown, CEO of user association WAP Group, agreed. He said: "I think the marketing people have done a lot of damage to the credibility of the industry." The analysts believe WAP should have been promoted as an added text-based service rather than as mobile internet. Mat Hanrahan, analyst at Bloor Research, also attacked BT Cellnet for the line it sold to consumers: "Millions of people saw that advert and millions fell for it," he said. "People are being misled by the advertising. You can't surf the net on a phone with a tiny screen." Retailers are also failing to give consumers straight advice about WAP. A Which? report released this week found that half the UK's mobile retailers are failing to tell customers that WAP does not allow users to access the internet via a mobile phone. Investigators from the Consumers Association visited 120 stores across the UK and asked for a phone that would let them surf the internet. "We wanted shops to warn consumers that WAP is limited," said Pete Tynan, a senior researcher at Which? magazine. "I was hoping that all shops would tell us this isn't the internet." BT Cellnet declined to comment.