Orange WAP services land, phones to follow

The promise of a mobile phone that doubles as an intelligent buddy is here... Well, nearly.

Orange today became one of the first mobile networks to unveil a fully operational range of WAP (wireless application protocol) services. The services, including news, sports, listings, travel and entertainment are ready to go live as soon as the first WAP enabled phones hit the market in October.

Orange confirmed there would be no price increase on a user's monthly tariff, apart from a download content charge which will be offered at a promotional rate for the first six months. After this period Orange will determine price levels from customer usage patterns.

Rory Maguire, Orange manager content services is confident WAP-enabled phones will usurp current mobiles as must-have gadgets: "This will probably even be the next must-have playground accessory. The service will be cheap, and phones will probably come down to around £40 within a few months."

The Orange WAP portal, also launched today, will display content providers Orange has passed as a WAP service provider. It will also list those who have not yet passed. Each subscriber to the Orange services will have his or her own homepage where content providers will be selected. These will then be displayed on the phone's main menu.

Maguire said Orange will eventually integrate buying capability into the technology: "You will be able to sit in a meeting, call up the times of the next train home and press a button to automatically order the ticket, pay for it, and have it waiting for you at the station when you arrive."

Another potentially useful feature will be "opting in" for targeted advertising. For instance, Orange is working with one cinema chain to enhance the efficiency of its ticketing operations. If the cinema has half its seats empty for a particular film showing, it can send out a message to a user's phone offering half price tickets, available at the touch of a button.

Orange also announced its own WAP enabled phone, which launch towards the end of October for around £150.