ISBN: 0-471-41405 -0
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The Mobile Internet
The mobile Internet—the marriage between today’s Internet and the increasing urge for mobility—is about to take off. Independent sources all estimate incomprehensible markets for these new services and applications. Ericsson recently revised its prognosis and now estimates that there will be some 600 million mobile Internet users in 2004 (see Figure 2.4).
Figure 2.4 only illustrates the start of this convergence, and in the long term it will be difficult to distinguish the different parts. Many applications will be accessible across fixed networks as well as mobile ones.
jjj Mobile ,^c?^ Telephony
Figure 2.4 Internet + Mobility = Mobile Internet.
Infrastructure and handset manufacturers such as Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, and so on—and the wireless operators, such as Vodaphone/Airtouch, Sonera, AT&T, and more—have set the groundwork for this paradigm shift. All of them are committed to deploying GPRS and 3G networks. Now, these players feel confident that their parts of this new market will be in place (in other words, technologies such as WAP, Bluetooth, GPRS, and 3G). This situation raises a need to mobilize other players to contribute: the applications (mail, games, chat, and so on) and content developers (Web, WAP, and so on). The mobile Internet is still in its infancy, and most people have still not realized what it will look like and how we will use it. As we will see as we go through this book, the width of possible applications is endless, but there are certain things that make the mobile Internet totally different from its fixed counterpart. By looking into some of the success stories of the mobile Internet so far, we will see what components are crucial.
Mobitex and Palm.net
The specification of the Mobitex technology started at the Swedish Telecom around 1982, and the first Mobitex network entered commercial operation in Sweden in 1986. During 1988, Ericsson became responsible for the further development of the Mobitex infrastructure together with the Mobitex Operators Association (MOA) organization. MOA is responsible for the Mobitex Interface Specification, in which the air-protocol and the protocol for the permanently connected terminals are specified.
Mobitex is a network technology that is designed exclusively for two -way, wireless data communication. Mobitex has, since its commercial start in 1986, evolved into a high-quality system of numerous functions and applications. The system uses a hierarchical cellular infrastructure, which you can configure for a wide range of network sizes (giving operators the flexibility for incremental expansion of host connections, coverage area, and message capacity as required). The bit rates of Mobitex are low (8Kbps), but a key advantage is that it has the always-online packet data feature. As with CDPD, Mobitex lacked consumer-oriented applications and terminals for a long time. In 1999, Palm
Figure 2.5 The Palm VII.
Computing (at that time a part of 3Com, Inc.) introduced a wirelessly connected device, the Palm VII, with an associated service, Palm.net, that ran on Mobitex networks (see Figure 2.5). With the help of a large set of content partners, this pioneering of using wireless PDAs created a lot of interest.
As NTT DoCoMo was driving the work to produce a 3G standard to deliver multimedia applications to its customers, NTT wanted to start even earlier than the promised launch dates of 3G. Using a packet data extension (enabling Always Online) to its PDC network, a markup language (c -HTML), and lots of content partners, DoCoMo launched I-Mode in March 1999. Figure 2.6 shows the impressive takeup of these services (more than 15 million at the end of 2000).
Users pay a fixed monthly fee and then a price of 300 Yen per packet. The most popular applications are in the entertainment segment, with games, horoscopes, and cartoons topping the charts. Many said that they did not sign up for I-Mode because it would make them more productive, but rather they wanted to have fun. Much debate exists concerning whether these experiences are
1. Availability of compelling content and applications. There has to be something that makes people want the new service, and the funny jokes rather than an increased bit rate will be what drives the growth.
2. Availability of mass-market devices at reasonable prices. The content will most likely never be developed unless the content and application developers see some devices that their target users are likely to embrace. The devices must also be incredibly user-friendly, just like the I-Mode button on the Japanese handsets.
3. Ease of use and hassle-free connections. The packet data networks that remove the dial-up sequence make the services available at all times (without a tedious initial waiting period).
Another key factor to consider is the time that it takes for users to start accepting a new technology. Never in history have new technologies been introduced to people this quickly. After six months, people started wondering whether WAP was dead just because there were not tens of millions of WAP users. We will have to learn that it takes time and that not everybody is living life in the fast lane.