Nokia is heralding a new age of opportunities for application developers as mobile phone manufacturers launch their WAP-enabled handsets in Australia by the end of the year.
Kevin Brough, Nokia Asia Pacific managing director, says faster throughput speeds and the always-on connection of the General Package Radio Service (2.5 generation) and 3G (third generation) is a significant step towards the take-up of WAP services. Yet for take-up to be successful, the market needs compelling applications and content to drive the uptake.
"This is not a chicken and an egg thing," says Brough. "The applications have to come first." Yet they have to be "compelling" enough to drive rapid mass-market adoption.
"From a consumer standpoint, they have to enhance my life," says Brough. "From a corporate standpoint, they have to enhance my relationship with the customer and help me to take my services to the market."
According to US research group Cahners In-Stat, the window of opportunity to the wireless handheld device market has opened. In order to be successful, players must quickly and aggressively stake out next-generation phone feature set differentiators. They must also strategically leverage the regional market dynamics while successfully positioning for global 3G.
Nokia has already teamed with integration house EDS to tackle the billing system glitches that the transition to 3G will create. Nokia is also involving the local telcos in tests to ensure applications won't have adverse effects on networks.
Mobile operators have to alter their current billing systems before 3G mobile services see mass adoption, explains Brough. The current billing software is designed for global system mobile communications (GSM) voice telephony. Hard-wired with specific parameters such as time and distance, the current system is only capable of charging on a "per-minute" basis. In a wireless environment, things have to be captured on an event-basis, with the ability to then attach value to certain events, he says.
Bertrand Bidaud, research director for telecommunications at Gartner Asia-Pacific, says the 3G method of billing will increase the need for quality of service from service providers. "Telco operators who want to grab a piece of the lucrative 3G pie - where the mobile phone can be a payment system - have to work to get their customers' trust and confidence first," says Bidaud. "If your telco has a bad reputation in giving out erroneous or messed up phone bills, the last thing that a user wants is a credit card-like bill which may not be accurate."
Banks are expected to challenge telco operators in this space. They will compete to become Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) with access to a network without the cost of owning one. This will enable the banks to "own" the mobile commerce customer totally and control the revenues with minimal sharing.