The Mobile Net – The Next Big Thing

The Mobile Net. It’s the next big thing. Are you mobile-Net-surfing yet? Make your way through airports, bus and train stations, or any public place and you’ll find cell phone usage as common as coffee. Imagine the potential market when the mobile phone becomes the gateway to the Internet.

Obviously, if you’re reading this, you have more than a passing interest in Internet, and it’s future direction. Less than 24 months ago high speed Internet access to homes, via cable or DSL, was just becoming a reality. Those of us who have it, now dread ever logging on with a 56k modem or worse. But how many of us have used one of the Internet services available over the cell-phone networks? Having recently had the pleasure, these systems are slow and clunky, they offer limited access, and very brief Email messaging capabilities – less characters than instant messaging. In fact, the first roll out of Wireless Internet services came only last year, in Europe. Unfortunately, the system required access to a special data only dial-up number and the phone companies were slow to offer interesting and easy-to-use WAP services. No real surprise – Why should the phone companies put much effort into ensuring the availability of applications for a market dominated by the wrong equipment?

Now jump forward with me to later this year, as the next generation of wireless access starts coming online – wireless broadband. This summer a half-dozen new WAP phones will be coming on the market. They range from normal-looking phones with WAP enhancements to tiny, fold-open computer-phones with full built-in Palm-type organizers.

Is this something you want or something you’ll need to prepare for? Yes! For at least the first few months, its popularity will be limited to gadget lovers only, but later this year it will change as providers will be installing new data networks called “General Packet Radio Service.” (GPRS). Like the popular Imode system in Japan, this will permit users to send and receive data whenever your phone is on. No dial-up connection needed.

The combination of GPRS and Roaming presents us with a formidable challenge as business operators on the web. After voice roaming, data roaming is the next big challenge. Utilizing the spare capacity of GSM networks, GPRS is the ideal carrier for data. Roll-out for GPRS has been cautious and calculated to date but confidence in this sector is growing. The telecommunication world is looking to establish new alliances with the Internet world, both for content and infrastructure. The goal is to build and expand the Internet into the exciting arena of international data roaming. These changes are not to be missed if you want to keep abreast – plan ahead.

How will this be used? Looking for a tank of gas? Just press a button on your phone, choose gasoline from a menu and the phone system locates you, finds the nearest service station, then guides you right to the pump. Mobile e-commerce will expand the online marketplace to include millions of businesses, from coffee shops and grocery stores, to shoe repairs.

What will wireless broadband mean to you, and to your business? It depends whether or not you are ready to embrace it. Many people are sure to approach you within the next year with the newest “killer app.” A lot of companies are already trying. A few of them will get it right. When they do, the numbers promise to overwhelm us like a tsunami. It is estimated that within four years 350 million people worldwide will be using the Mobile Net. Instead of waiting patiently for shoppers to sit down and log-on, the mobile Net will be riding along with people in their daily lives, flashing, beeping, and vibrating with opportunities. Better start revamping those business plans.