Internet access via SMS

Standard mobiles to access Web before WAP is established

A UK startup Tuesday launched a service that uses the text messaging facilities of standard mobile phones to access information from Web sites. Available on all four mobile phone networks, Infone allows users to request information by sending an SMS keyword.

Fonedata, which acts as a virtual ISP for Infone, receives requests on its servers which respond by sending information from sites that have registered for the Infone service.

Users who visit the Fonedata Web site can nominate preferred services by assigning a keyword. So if you want information from the local Pizza Hut on special offers, you would go to Infone, tell it that when it recieves an SMS message from your mobile using, say PIZ, it should return information from the Pizza Hut.

Fonedata also operates a search engine, whereby 'Find Weather' will return a list of all available weather sites.

Although several operators currently provide content delivery services to mobile phones via SMS, Infone provides a way of directly requesting content. Fonedata believes the service is a way of satisfying consumers' hunger for more data functionality on mobiles until WAP phones and services become established in the UK. "When WAP phones come in properly this service is dead," admitted Simon Luttrell, Fonedata managing director, "We are developing WAP services, but in the meantime there are a lot of people who can benefit from the Internet access our service provides."

At present the registered sites that Infone users will be able to access include Newswatch, Motley Fool, Online Weather, Whats On Stage, and UK.Ents.24, which provides details of clubs and concerts.