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Chapter 1: WAP and the FutureThis chapter concentrates on new techniques such as WAP and GPRS. Benefits of these techniques and the possibilities they offer to current and future users are described. Thanks to these techniques, everyone will be able to access the Internet from mobile telephones, organizers, or other mobile equipment. Via Internet, a wide range of other services will be accessible. Also, related technologies like EDGE, UMTS Bluetooth, and mobile positioning are explained.
Specially Designed for Mobile CommunicationWireless Application Protocol (WAP) is a standardized protocol that enables an application to be set up between a mobile telephone and a server. This enables Internet access, as well as use of other applications. The mobile user (Figure 1.1) can access information and applications on the Internet or on his or her company's Intranet. This was already possible before the introduction of WAP. A user who has access to a laptop or organizer can connect to Internet via mobile telephone. The user calls into an Internet service provider via a mobile phone in exactly the same way that he or she would do via a fixed telephone line. The user's interface is identical, but the speed is considerably slower. The bandwidth of a GSM connection is 9.6 kbit per second compared to the 56.6 or 64 kbit per second maximum provided by a fixed PSTN or ISDN telephone network. The GSM connection will be disconnected more often and give more transmission faults than a connection via a fixed telephone network because it is a radio connection.
The Internet is a simple and efficient method of delivering services to millions of PC users. WAP was specially developed to make the convenience of the Internet available to mobile users without the need for a laptop. This means that WAP takes into account the following limitations of the mobile terminal and the mobile connection:
- Low bandwidth. Mobile networks have a lower bandwidth than fixed net-works. This leads to lower performance. WAP minimizes traffic over the mobile network, enabling better performance. The WAP protocol elimi-nates unnecessary information, enabling only about half the quantity of data that is needed by a standard HTTP/TCP/IP stack to deliver the same content.
- Long delays. Mobile networks have longer delays than fixed networks due to the lower data speed. For the user this means a long wait before a reac-tion to his or her action. WAP minimizes the number of question-and-an-swer sessions between the mobile appliance and the WAP device.
- Poor connection stability. Mobile networks can be unavailable to the user for shorter or longer periods, for example, due to limited capacity or breakdown in radio contact. WAP minimizes the effects of signal failure by maintaining the logical session intact. Also, specific lost data can be re-sent on a selective basis.
- Limited screen size. Mobile terminals (even PDAs) have a small screen compared to a desktop. The size of the human hand will always limit screen size, even with the arrival of slightly bigger handhelds. WAP takes account of the small screen by breaking the total interaction with the user up into small parts (the so-called cards) that can be shown on small screens. Examples of interactions are text screens, lists of options, input fields, or combinations of these.
- Limited input possibilities. Mobile terminals have a small keyboard for data input. This is clearly much more difficult to use than the QWERTY keyboard on a PC. Text as well as numbers can be input with WAP, but in-put will generally be limited.
- Limited memory and processor capacity. Mobile terminals have very limited memory and processing speed compared to PCs. This is true for working memory and space for programs that the manufacturer puts in the terminal. WAP needs little memory or processing speed.
- Limited battery capacity. Access to mobile services increases the use of the radio interface and with it the consumption of power. WAP restricts the use of bandwidth and thus also the battery consumption.
Openwave, The Founder of WAP
When the broadband hype broke out in Silicon Valley at the end of 1994, Alain Rossmann, the founder of what is now Openwave, set himself the goal of making the Internet accessible via mobile telephones. In spite of all the limitations of a small device, Rossmann saw the value of Internet on the cellular: You always have it with you. He also foresaw a mass market. In 1996, AT&T was the first company to step into the mobile Internet world with the introduction of PocketNet. The product did not take off in the mass market, mainly because there were only a few types of large, heavy devices available. In the business market, numerous applications developed for transportation and logistics are still in use.
In 1997, in order to break into the fast-growing global mass market for mobile telephony, Openwave (then called Unwired Planet) decided to share its technological lead with dominant mobile telecom suppliers Ericsson, Nokia, and Motorola with the aim of making its technology the de facto standard. The WAP Forum was born. This "new economy" decision was certainly good for Unwired Planet. The WAP Forum developed into the industrial platform for mobile Internet. Unwired Planet changed its name to Phone.com. Phone.com itself has a developers forum where more than 100,000 developers are registered. The Phone.com microbrowser has been licensed to more than 20 mobile telephone suppliers and is used by Motorola, Alcatel, Panasonic, Siemens, and Samsung, among others. The French Vodafone daughter, SFR, was the first European mobile operator to take the plunge. In March 1999, E.medi@ saw the light, as part of a mobile telephone package for small businesses. E.medi@ was based on Phone.com's own HDML programming language, the basis for WAP's WML.
Phone.com's application for a stock market offering in June 1999 gave financial room for expansion. Sales offices have now been opened in all important mobile markets. Also, Phone.com has carried out a number of acquisitions. They have bought Apion to serve the European operator market, @motion to add mobile speech recognition, Paragon for synchronization products for synchronization of PDAs and mobile telephones with the most important organizer platforms, and Onebox for unified messaging. These acquisitions have enabled Phone.com to expand its gateway product with personalization modules, telephony applications, and Intranet applications. Also, Phone.com has released a separate synchronization product under the name FoneSync Essentials ( www.fonesync.com). This product enables synchronization of the most important organizer platforms (e.g., Microsoft, Lotus) with a whole range of types of mobile telephones and PDAs.
In November 2000, Phone.com and Software.com, a developer of Internet infrastructure software for communications service providers, merged, adding a broad range of messaging products to the Phone.com portfolio. The merged company was called Openwave and it currently serves mobile operators in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. In the Japanese market—the biggest and most advanced mobile Internet market at the moment—Openwave has IDO and KDDI as customers. With i-mode, Japanese market leader NTT DoCoMo has developed its own WAP variant (see the section "Japanese Competition for WAP?"). Openwave claims to be the worldwide leader of open Internet-based communication infrastructure software and applications with more than 80 mobile operator customers like Vodafone Mannesmann (Germany), Telecom Italia, Sprint, and British Telecom.
The first commercial WAP services were based on the WAP 1.1 standard, issued in June 1999. The first commercial services were launched at the end of 1999 (info from KPN Mobile premiered on November 25, 1999). Prior to WAP 1.1, a number of mobile operators carried out a pilot with WAP 1.0. WAP 1.1 deviates somewhat from the WAP 1.0 standard and equipment based on WAP 1.0 cannot be used for services that are based on WAP 1.1. The Siemens S25 handset used a WAP 1.0 browser that was not compatible with any WAP service.
The WAP 1.2 specifications were approved in June 2000. The first commercial services based on WAP 1.2 were introduced early 2001. WAP 1.2 is backward-compatible with WAP 1.1. This means that WAP 1.1 handsets work with WAP 1.2-based services. WAP 1.2 provided several technical enhancements of WAP 1.1 functionality and a range of new functionality—SMS push services, end-to-end security using the SIM card (or another smart card), and integration of voice telephony services. The characteristics of the new functionality will be explained later.
WAP 2.0—released in Summer 2001—incorporates TCP/IP and xHTML into the WAP standard, offering programmers the facility to develop an application for both fixed and wireless Internet at once. WAP 2.0 also anticipates the upcoming faster networks and services, solving earlier stumbling blocks like security, personalization, and provisioning. WAP 2.0 should also be backward-compatible with WAP 1.x. The WAP Building Blocks
In many respects WAP resembles the Internet. An example is the manner in which interaction takes place. With WAP the user also has a browser at his or her disposal, enabling a request for an Internet address to be entered. This request is transferred to a WAP gateway via a mobile connection. This gateway sends the information request on to the WAP server. The server sends the required information back via the gateway. The gateway sends it back to the mobile phone over the mobile connection.
The WAP building blocks (Figure 1.2) are:
- the WAP client (the browser in the mobile telephone)
- the WAP gateway
- the server
- supporting services