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xmlThe Wireless Future
The wireless Internet is the big buzz these days. It's here, but it's not ready for prime time. Most wireless Internet services deliver an abbreviated Web experience -- all text, for instance, or special low-graphics Web pages. It's expensive, too. Most wireless Internet devices are Net-capable cell phones and PDAs, though more and more laptops and palmtops are offering wireless modems.
Wireless is still for road warriors and others who need it at this point, but not for long. Telephone carriers, cell companies, and ISPs are teaming up to make wireless Internet service cheaper and more common. Some even foresee an entirely wireless future.

You'll be able to surf the Net wherever you are, and make phone calls, too. As bandwidth grows, you'll even get television and other multimedia entertainment over wireless devices. Displays will get larger and brighter, batteries more efficient, and wireless pipes fatter (can you still call it a "pipe" when it comes through the air?). It's all going to happen, and sooner than you think.

FAQ about WAP

1. So what is the WAP thing then?
WAP- is short for Wireless Application Protocol. So what does that mean? Well, basically it is a method of letting a wireless device, usually a mobile phone, view Internet pages, using text only, and very simple black and white pictures. Naturally, it isn't quite as simple as that. The web site has to be specially designed for the WAP phone, and the pages have to be fairly small as the data speed on mobile phones is a lot slower than on domestic modems. Also, all the phones will have screens of different shapes and sizes, so pages will look different depending on the phone your are using.

2. What is the WML thing then?
WML, or Wireless Markup Language is the language that WAP sites are written in. Fortunately, it is very similar to the HTML language used to write ordinary web sites. There are some differences; it is very simple, with no nested tables, very basic font control, and the pages have to be quite small so that they do not take ages to download. To get technical for a moment, WML, is a part of the new XML language which is being developed to make web sites more interactive and easier to design, but that doesn't actually affect you if you want to write a WML page.

3. How long is WAP going to be around?
Well, that is a difficult one. Firstly, while it is true that mobile phone data speeds will get faster, that will take several years to begin, and even then not every one will upgrade to the new systems. So, on that premise, WAP will be around for a minimum of four years, which in the Internet world, is a massively long time! Also, web browsers for the PC, such as the one your are using now, will soon come with the ability to view WAP pages, so you won't even need a WAP enabled mobile phone. Opera are already about to release such a browser. And finally, it doesn't cost a lot to put WAP into a mobile phone, and prices are falling all the time, so it is expected that by the third quarter of this year, almost all new mobile phones sold, will be WAP enabled.


4. How Do WAP Phones Connect To A WAP site?
Each WAP phone needs to connect to what is known as a WAP gateway. These are computer boxes that act as the doorway between you and the Internet. Usually, your mobile phone company will have a gateway, but other companies are coming with their own ones, we have a list of WAP gateways on this web site for you to try out. Some mobile phone companies will only let you visit sites that they approve of, which is why independent gateways are a good idea. But back to technicalities: when you visit a WAP site, your phone sends a request to the WAP gateway. That then sends a request to the WAP site for the page you want to view, when the WAP gateway has a copy of the page, it compresses it and sends it back to your phone, where it is expanded and displayed. As with the normal Internet, the speed is often down to how busy the site is, and how busy the Internet is in general. The gateways also vary in how good they are at compressing a page. As some phones might reject a WAP page that is getting close tothe size limit, you can sometimes end up with the odd situation that a page will work on one gateway or phone, but not on another.

5. I need to know more, where can I find it?
There are lots of good sites that can tell you more about WAP, if you click on the LINKS icon at the top of this page, you will find some sites there, but the main one is going to be: WAPForum - the governing body for WAP.

6. Is WAP secure?
Well, it depends on what you are trying to do. For day to day use, WAP is as secure as the mobile phone standard that your phone works on. As that will be probably be GSM, CDMA or TDMA, it is basically very secure against eavesdropping. If you were interested in m-commerce, buying plane tickets, for example, over a WAP phone, then it is fairly secure. The signal from your phone to the WAP gateway, and from the WAP gateway is totally secure, as secure as a normal e-commerce web site. However, there is a moment at the WAP gateway, about a third of a second, when the information is not encrypted, and in theory, the owners of the WAP gateway could print off your information. From a banks point of view, that is not secure enough, but for day to day use, giving your credit card details to a WAP site should not be any more of a problem than handing it over to a waiter in a restaurant.

7. I hear Japan is not using WAP.
Japan does have a WAP service. However, it is not as well known as the incredibly popular iMode system being offered by the cellular network, NTT DoCoMo. iMode is a form of wireless internet that is incompatible with WAP, but gets a lot of media coverage as nearly a third of all internet users in Japan use iMode.

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