WAP slow off the mark

Initial wireless communication services will operate at one-third the speed of regular Internet access, and downloading graphics to a handset will be both timely and costly.

Cable & Wireless Optus' (CWO) mobile managing director Paul O'Sullivan said version 1.1 of its new wireless application protocol (WAP) service would operate at 9.6Kbps -- about "one-third of what we're used to". He admitted that downloading graphics from the Internet would be "inconvenient".

Additionally, the WAP e-mail retrieval service would only download e-mail in "chunks", allowing the user to either download the remainder of the message later, or go to the next message, CWO officials said.

After a five-month trial, CWO's WAP service will be available at the end of the month. It will cost 20 cents per 30 seconds until March 2000, after which time it will cost 25 cents per 30 seconds, O'Sullivan said.

He said the service would "abolish effective access fees", in that usage is billed only from the handset's "point of contact" with the ISP. However, if the user does not exit the session correctly, they would be billed until the phone reaches an automated logging off function, he said.

The service will be targeted initially at corporate users, useable only with WAP-enabled phones -- the first of which (the Nokia 7110) is to hit the market at the same time the service becomes available.

Then, CWO expects WAP to filter into the Toys "R" Us market, and become a household item by the end of 2001.

O'Sullivan emphasised there was no exclusivity between CWO and Nokia, and that other WAP-enabled handset brands would also work with the service.

Fairfax and Soprano will be among the initial content providers.

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