The number of subscribers with wireless access to the Internet through laptops,
personal digital assistants (PDAs), cellular phones, pagers, and other wireless
devices is rapidly increasing. In 1998, 1.2 million people had wireless web access.
IDC predicts that in 2003 the number of wireless Internet subscribers will be
40.4 million. Because this market is growing at such a fast rate, content providers
see an opportunity to enter the market by forming partnerships with wireless carriers
to deliver data applications to wireless devices. In fact, companies solely dedicated
to this type of service are starting to appear.
predict that e-commerce will be a key application for wireless Internet access.
Buying books, trading stocks, reserving hotel rooms and renting cars from anywhere
will be easy and consumers will demand these types of services. IDC states that
the wireless Internet transaction value in 1998 was $4.3 billion. This number
is expected to increase to $38 billion in 2003. IDC predicts that carriers will
eventually charge a flat monthly fee for wireless access. Fees for wireless access
will drop to be equal to or less than voice services in the next few years, allowing
most people to afford wireless access to the Internet.
Content: Internet Portals
The Strategis Group defines a wireless portal
as "a customized point of entry through which a wireless subscriber can access
a limited number of Internet sites and services." Many wireless carriers
offer internet content to their subscribers through partnerships with some of
the large internet content portal companies. For example, AT&T offers its
wireless Internet Digital PocketNet subscribers content from ABCNews.com, Bloomberg.com,
AOL, and ESPN.com. Sprint PCS partners with AOL, CNN.com, Amazon.com and The Weather
Channel. Other wireless carriers, such as USWest and AirTouch, have similar deals.
Wireless networks that transmit data at speeds equivalent to or under 56 Kbps,
or narrowband networks, are currently more readily available today than wireless
broadband networks. Data delivery to wireless devices will be restricted by narrowband
networks. Access to graphics and content best accessed through high-speed connections
will be limited. Instead, time-sensitive and personalized data delivery, as well
as e-commerce activities, will fuel the initial drive for the wireless content
Wireless portals will
be targeted toward broad consumer markets and toward vertical business markets.
It is expected that portals will serve as personalized information aggregators
for end-users. Corporate wireless portal solutions may offer secure end-to-end
wireless connectivity for business end-users, similar to a wireline intranet.
Analysts expect two types of consumer portals to appear. "Push" portals
will enable the end-user to set up custom information that they would like delivered
to them periodically.
"Push and pull" portals will both deliver personalized
content to the end-user and allow the end-user to search the portal for information.
Corporate wireless portal solutions will provide customized services like time
sheet and expense report monitoring and integration, billing capabilities, sales
force automation, and access to inventory databases.
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