WAP popularity breaks records

Mobile phone users are finding new reasons to go online, as network operators roll out more WAP content and services

Mobile phone browser pages using the WAP standard hit record numbers in January, with 1.2 billion page impressions delivered, according to the latest figures from the Mobile Data Association.

The figures point to an ongoing resurgence for the standard, developed to deliver low-bandwidth content specifically for mobile devices. Some mobile phones can also browse conventional HTML Web pages, but WAP browsers are built into even the least expensive handsets.

On average, UK network operators O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone delivered 38 million WAP page impressions per day in January, according to the MDA. That more than doubles the 17 million pages per day in January 2003. The group expects page impressions to reach 13 billion by the end of this year, up from 9.2 billion for 2003.

WAP and its WML language has found a niche in portal sites, built by network operators such as Vodafone, that are used to distribute popular add-ons such as games and ring tones. The MDA said that game and ring-tone downloads have been a major contributor to WAP's resurgence, with sites that offer travel information also increasing in popularity.

"Mobile operators are partnering with companies in the news and sports arenas to provide more compelling content and improved ease of navigation around mobile Internet sites," said MDA chairman Mike Short, in a statement.

The MDA counts a WAP page impression as a WML file, or combination of WML files, sent to a valid user as the result of a direct request.