Gartner: No wireless future until GPRS takes off

Gartner provides what it terms as “thought leadership” to more than 10,000 organisations around the world, helping clients achieve their business objectives through intelligent and efficient use of modern technology. Gartner's telecommunications group provides analysis for a wide array of telecom and networking issues.

Geoff JohnsonGartner provides what it terms as “thought leadership” to more than 10,000 organisations around the world, helping clients achieve their business objectives through intelligent and efficient use of modern technology. Gartner's telecommunications group provides analysis for a wide array of telecom and networking issues. Research Director Geoff Johnson cites NTT DoCoMo as a glowing example of Wireless Web service adoption and judges that other Asian counterparts will follow suit.

What are examples of wireless technology adoption?
The world's most valuable success story in Wireless Web service adoption is from Japan. DoCoMo has leapt clear of its parent's dominant carrier culture and created a compelling mobile telephone experience for users where the 'Killer Application' is a daily cartoon called "Hello Kitty".

DoCoMo has achieved 21 million subscribers within the first two years of operation of i-mode. With a handset replacement cycle of less than 9 months, the mobile phone is positioned as a fashion accessory and most users are oblivious to the technology behind the amusing entertainment, gaming and messaging services that they receive.

DoCoMo's use of a proprietary form of compact HTML (cHTML) sped the service to market and controls its wide base of applications developers and content providers. Gartner’s 'NTT DoCoMo's i-mode: The Road to El Dorado?' provides an insight into the way that DoCoMo has effectively mustered its handset suppliers and a wealth of content providers to drive usage through its wireless portal and billing machinery to extract 9% fees from a growing tsunami of transactions.

While Europe is challenged by high spectrum prices paid for 3G and the US is thwarted by severely fragmented spectrum and the lack of relatively simple national marketing compared to other countries, some Asia Pacific countries are enjoying a leading global role.

DoCoMo's i-mode service is heavily in demand to be transferred to other countries but a simple translation of its business success will not occur because of cultural, technical and commercial differences.

North America will assume its traditional role as a software powerhouse as Wireless Web services are developed but its domestic uptake will be delayed compared to the easier opportunities presenting in Asia.

Singapore will be characteristically aggressive in seeking 'm'- commerce (Mobile). Hong Kong will be as early to market with wireless devices as possible. Along with all other countries in the region relying on improvements in the WAP standard and faster packet-switched network infrastructure, there will be a collective pause in interest, application development and business planning as expectations for early adoption of Wireless Web services are adjusted.

Describe the challenges that each country faces in deploying next-generation networks.
Each country and carrier in Asia Pacific has its own version of the way that it will provide basic Mobile Internet infrastructure. Gartner sees wide market differentiation and approaches to creating attractive Wireless Web services across the region.

Gartner’s Kobita Desai in his 'A New Landscape in the Indian Cellular Industry' cheers the Indian market, which has made substantial moves towards wider usage of mobile telephony despite its lack of effective governance that has driven many foreign investors away.

At Gartner's Wireless Conference held in Sydney Australia on 14 and 15 March 2001, 45% of the well-qualified audience of 30 described themselves as implementing a major wireless project within 12 months with 55% expecting to undertake at least a minor project.

Finally, we provide 'A Mobile "To Do List"' which gives Gartner's recommendations arising from recent client inquiries, presentations and questions.

Here we have incorporated the last hectic year's experiences with our forecast trends and market adoption projections into an actionable set of specific steps to take in perceiving, planning, evaluating, sourcing, implementing and operating Wireless web services.

What's the outlook for the wireless mobile arena for Asia?
Gartner analysts Nick Ingelbrecht and Ann Liang in our report, 'China's Mobile Mushroom' outlined how mobiles are booming in China with 16 million new mobile users in the first 3 months of 2001.

China's own Mobile Internet or 'Moternet' plans have been announced with an unusual degree of creativity and has generated significant expectations for services even though only basic mobile internet infrastructure is provided but new service alliances may emerge.

Where is the main source of development for telecom technologies?
Innovation in the emerging Mobile Internet technologies and their Wireless Web services has blossomed from Europe, North America and Asia Pacific as the Wireless Applications Protocol (WAP) standards became agreed.

However, NTT's DoCoMo in Japan has been the source of implementation for most.

In terms of infrastructure, operating costs and mobile take-up, which Asia Pacific country is currently leading?
Japan and, more recently, South Korea lead the vendor-driven race to Mobile Internet access in Asia Pacific. Of the region's Wireless Web service subscribers, fully 75% are in Japan and 23% in Korea with only 2% spread across all the other key markets in Asia Pacific.

It is now clear that major markets such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are seeing negligible adoption of services based on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) compared with Japan's i-mode.

Gartner's Hype Cycle (figure below) below graphically shows the current disappointment with WAP and intermediate (2.5G) solutions on the way to broadband wireless usage (3G). Productivity improvements cannot occur until infrastructure solutions such as packet-switched General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) and Location-based Services (LBS) become widely available. Gartner's Hype Cycle

Although most carriers have built GPRS overlays on their GSM networks, GPRS handsets are late to market by 12 months. Bluetooth is 18 months late and barely beyond prototypes today. LBS is deployed in most leading markets and will even be available in China by 2H 2002.

Gartner's research position is that in most Asia Pacific markets, 2.5G services will be productive for enterprise users by mid 2002 but that the capital cost to carriers and the internetworking complexity of 3G will mean that widespread adoption of services will be delayed until at least 2H2003.

In a recent Gartner report, '3Gee - Where's the Whiz Gone?' Nick Ingelbrecht concludes that Asia Pacific has few of the 3G problems found in Europe and North America and gives an analysis of the consequential impact on high speed data services availability across the region.

Similarly, Bertrand Bidaud addresses the 'Cellular Mobile Terminals in Asia Pacific: The Year of Living Dangerously' and tells how sensitive the handset industry is to replacements and upgrades even though Asia Pacific has high growth in new users. In mature markets, the terminal market has shifted from being a first user market, to become a replacement market with changing purchase patterns and market success factors.

More about Top 20 Telecoms' Outlook.