An estimated 80 million GSM WAP (wireless application protocol)-enabled phones will be in the hands of global consumers by March next year, according to a member of the WAP Forum.
The WAP Forum originally forecast 80 million users would be reached by 2000, but due to delays by handset manufacturers to ship WAP-enabled phones, Q1 is a more realistic timeframe, said Staffan Pehrson, Ericsson WAP Forum member.
Skip Bryan, Ericsson's director of technology market development and WAP Forum Board director, said that in one or two years time, when there is quicker Internet access due to packetised capabilities, the number of people accessing the Internet via mobile phones would exceed those using PCs at home.
"[WAP] increases the accessibility of the Internet to people who don't have a PC," he said.
Chuck Parrish, WAP member and executive at Phone.com, added: "WAP has the opportunity to be the widest [adopted technology] in the world at the lowest cost."
Meanwhile, the WAP Forum has been meeting in Sydney this week to continue working on the development and marketing of the wireless technology.
Issues, including the importance of interoperability and cooperation between content providers and applications providers, were discussed during the meetings, Greg Williams, the chairman of the Forum, said.
"That's what made the Internet go and it's going to make WAP go," Williams said.
The WAP Forum is also working with the developer community to develop suitable content, he said.
Meanwhile, in other WAP news, Microsoft announced two alliances with wireless leader Ericsson, including plans for a joint company that will market and deliver mobile e-mail products to network operators.
The two companies also announced a strategic partnership to develop and market wireless Internet-based systems using any device. In that partnership, Ericsson will provide its wireless application protocol software to Microsoft, and Ericsson will adopt a new Microsoft wireless browser, to be called Mobile Explorer, for use in some Internet-enabled smart phones.
Ericsson will own the majority of the joint company, which will focus on building and deploying e-mail products using Microsoft Windows NT Server and Exchange and Ericsson Internet technology.