Prepay explosion highlights need for WAP handsets

WAP services could be delayed because of prepay handset incompatibilities
Written by Justin Pearse, Contributor on

Britain's obsession with prepaid mobile phones may hinder the take up of WAP services here, according to industry and analysts.

A report released on Tuesday from Continental Research found phenomenal growth in the prepay market, one that's unable to access mobile data until late next year due to the lack of compatible handsets. The report found that while the UK mobile market has doubled over the past 12 months -- from 13 million to 41 million subscribers -- prepaid mobiles account for more than half of those connections.

But it's not just prepay mania that will hinder growth in the UK. Analysts believe that delays with the arrival of WAP devices will be followed by further postponements long before prepaid handsets arrive on the scene.

IDC senior analyst Tim Sheedy believes prepaid WAP handsets won't appear until mid-2001. The explosion of growth in this sector means that "it will, to an extent [hold up the growth of WAP services], all the developers are pushing to get the handsets into the prepaid segments".

Vodafone, which according to Continental Research has seen the biggest growth in prepay subscribers, believes there is "huge market for WAP services" that is being held back by a lack of hardware development. "There is no point trying to launch services into this market if they can't get handsets," says a spokeswoman. "Our retail operation is placing a lot of pressure on manufacturers -- there's been a lack of foresight on their behalf."

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