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September 1999


WAP — Wirelessly Bridging The Worlds Of Internet And Telephony

[Go To Services News]

BY GREG GALITZINE

As you can imagine, the convergence of telecommunications and data communications technologies is something we at Internet Telephony magazine are quite keen on. Our focus has been and will continue to be on those technologies that bridge the archaic world of circuit switching with the next-generation realm of packet-based communications and the evolution of these products and services as they take their place at the forefront of telecommunications. When a PBX vendor plugs in an IP line card, or when a traditional carrier starts making noise about IP-based telecommunications, we’re there, watching and reporting the events of this technological (r)evolution. And when we come across a technology that matches up perfectly with our stated goal of covering the converging Internet and telephony industries, you can bet we want to share it with our readers.

The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), in just two short years, has become the de facto standard for delivering wireless information (a la Internet) and telephony services to mobile, handheld devices, such as cell phones and other wireless terminals. And the organization charged with the stewardship and future development and acceptance of that standard is the WAP Forum. Founded in 1997 by charter members Ericsson, Motorola, and Phone.com (formerly Unwired Planet), the WAP forum has experienced tremendous growth as new members sign up on a regular basis. The organization now boasts membership of over 125 service providers, handset manufacturers, infrastructure providers, and developers.

Together, these companies are responsible for drafting a set of specifications that will allow manufacturers, network operators, content providers, and application developers to offer compatible products and secure services on all devices and networks, resulting in greater economies of scale and universal access to information. (Source: Wireless Application Protocol Forum, Ltd. 1999.)

APPS & MARKETS
Some of the applications currently in the works include basic Internet-based information retrieval, remote database lookups for the manufacturing sector, messaging (e-mail, short message notification of events), and mobile e-commerce. The basic pretense is that end users are no longer tied to a desk when they need to access information that is available over the Internet (or intranets). WAP will enable the retrieval of information from anywhere at any time. Of course, while the Internet model is a good one for the WAP developer community, there exist a number of challenges that need to be overcome to successfully present timely, useful information to the end user’s wireless terminal.

The “Experience”
To begin with, the end user’s experience is substantially different when using a handset instead of a desktop PC to access information. The screen size is dramatically smaller, the amount of available processing power is greatly reduced, and ease of use plays a much more critical role. Many handset users will never be experienced PC users, and so the experience of information retrieval must be made easy for all. Oftentimes the user will find himself engaged in more than one activity at once (walking and talking, driving, etc.). As such, there is no place for complicated keystroke commands like ctrl-alt-shift-F7.

Cost
Another important factor is price. While power users and technophiles will often pay more to be the first to own a new technology, most people won’t spend a fortune unless the services they receive are worth the investment. Various studies point to $149 (or less) as the magic number, but the bottom line is this: A significant value-add at a low price point will do the trick.

Different Needs
And perhaps most importantly, developers must realize that most people won’t be “Web surfing” on their handsets for entertainment purposes. The needs of the mobile professional are indeed different, and the applications available to them must be different as well. Mobile users will likely want to check stock quotes, not research a company’s full online prospectus. They will likely want access to travel information in the form of schedules and traffic reports rather than a full-blown vacation guide or a multimedia map of the city they’re in.

WHO WINS?
What are some of the benefits to be realized from this next-generation technology? Certainly one of the advantages of WAP is the fact that as an accepted standard, it truly embraces the spirit of open development.

Developers
The language used by WAP developers is primarily the wireless markup language (WML) specified by the WAP forum. WML is essentially a modified version of HDML (handheld device markup language), which in turn is an abridged version of HTML (hypertext markup language) designed specifically to enable handheld wireless terminals to obtain Web-based information. Developers the world over are familiar with the conventions and programming rules of HTML, and they should easily be able to transfer that knowledge to the development of applications for WAP-enabled products. Also, since WAP uses the standard HTTP version 1.1 protocol for its communications between the WAP gateway and Web servers, developers can use off-the-shelf Web servers, as well as standard existing authoring tools like Perl, CGI, and ASP, to create a multitude of new enhanced services. Indeed, since WML is part of an open standard, the developer community can feel secure that there is a migration path for them to follow as they undertake future application development.

The WAP Forum has also specified a lightweight protocol stack, which minimizes bandwidth requirements, so that the wireless network infrastructure can handle WAP applications. And, one of the truly exciting elements of WAP is that it is designed to work with most wireless networks, including CDPD, CDMA, GSM, PDC, PHS, TDMA, FLEX, ReFLEX, iDEN, TETRA, DECT, DataTAC, Mobitex, and more.

A final point for developers is that, with the sheer volume of wireless subscribers estimated by some sources to swell to over one billion within the next five years, the demand for new and exciting applications will be tremendous.

Service Providers
As for service providers, they too stand to benefit from WAP as much as the developer community. First off, the very availability of such an exciting value adding enhanced service allows service providers to offer a service, which helps to differentiate the provider from the competition. Since the developer community can now create standards-based applications, service providers can choose from myriad applications and services to truly offer their customers custom content. As for ease of use, since all WAP-enabled applications are available from a standard Web server, whenever applications are changed or upgraded, or when new services are added, they become instantly available to all subscribers to the network. And not to be overlooked, service providers can now track and bill for all of these new services.

End Users
Ultimately, end users, or subscribers, get the most significant benefits of WAP technology. By combining the best of existing technologies with the incredible potential afforded by the developer community, WAP gives subscribers an efficient, exciting new method of accessing information from anywhere at any time. Services will be available from any location, and users will have a wide array of choices when it comes to selecting the terminal that works best for them. Whether it’s a handset, a PDA, or some other as yet unheard of device, WAP subscribers will have real choices when it comes to staying in contact with the information they need most.

CONCLUSION
And so, the WAP specification is an open, standards-based approach to enabling the delivery of secure, Internet-based information to users regardless of their location. The protocol offers benefits to the whole spectrum of professionals — developers, service providers, hardware manufacturers (handsets, PDAs), and end users — who need to keep in touch with the information and services that help them build and grow their businesses.

Almost every week brings news from the world of WAP. Just recently, Motorola unveiled a WAP-enabled GSM handset that allows access to e-mail and Internet-based information. Phone.com released a mobile management architecture that will allow wireless network operators to remotely alter specific settings in mobile handsets, even after the handsets have been in the subscriber’s possession for some time. Ericsson and Nokia are already engaged in interoperability trials of their respective WAP products. Ericsson has even tagged Reuters for the delivery of that news provider’s content to WAP-enabled handsets.

So the worlds of Internet and telephony continue to merge, blurring the lines that once identified them as completely unique entities. And when the conversation turns to Internet, telephony, and Internet telephony, well, that’s where you’ll find us.


Services News

Convergent Completes Interconnect Testing
Convergent Networks has announced that its products have successfully completed interconnect testing to carry voice traffic between 2nd Century Communications' ATM-based local exchange network and GTE's facilities in Tampa, Fla. The new-generation convergence-switching product has passed interconnect testing between carrier networks, under native SS7 call control. The test result pave the way for the cost-effective delivery of a broad portfolio of end user services across an integrated multi-service infrastructure - from basic and custom call services ranges from 800 number lookup and local number portability to unified messaging.
No. 540, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

FaxNet Announces FaxMission
FaxNet has announced the immediate availability of FaxMission, a private-label, free fax-to-e-mail service for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), telcos, and Web portal companies. This unique offering enables end users to receive fax messages to their e-mail, along with many of their other Internet-based communications services from their preferred communications provider. In addition to providing the enhanced fax and messaging services, FaxNet also offer a complete end-to-end turnkey solution, including marketing, sales, customer service, and billing.
No. 541, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Call Sciences Announces Release 7.2 Of Virtual Assistant
Call Sciences has announced release 7.2 of its Personal Assistant and unified messaging system. The current set of SNMP-based alarms has been expanded to enable network operators and service providers to configure alarm text and severity levels, and trend network management alarms. Operations personnel will have greater visibility into the performance of the hardware, applications, and network interfaces. Additionally, faster configuration back-up tools are provided, and will enable system administrators to more effectively support back up and restore procedures, either on-site or remotely.
No. 542, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Qwest, KPMG Form Joint Venture
Qwest Communications International and KPMG, LLP have formed a joint venture called Qwest Cyber.Solutions, LLC, to provide Internet-based end-to-end application service provider, application hosting, and application management services. Qwest Cyber.Solutions will have multi-year contracts under management valued at more than $400 million that will provide a base to compete in the global market for applications management that analysts estimate will grow to $25 billion by 2001. The venture is a facilities-based applications service provider with assets of more than $120 million.
No. 543, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

NetAmerica.com To Acquire RateXchange
NetAmerica.com has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire RateXchange. This bandwidth exchange will facilitate wholesale voice and bandwidth exchange, clearing, and delivery between telecommunications carriers. RateXchange, a wholesale Internet market center for the telecommunications industry, currently provides Web-based "Lead Generation" for U.S. domestic and international telephony traffic, private lines, and satellite capacity; switched-based anonymous exchange of international telephony traffic and market information services.
No. 544, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

MIND, Ericsson Announce IP Telephony Interoperability
MIND has announced that Ericsson's IP telephony solution and the MIND iPhoneEX Internet Telephony Billing system product family are interoperable. The ability to integrate billing functionality and IP telephony platforms is a cornerstone to offering new value-added services. MIND's iPhoneEX billing and customer management software, combined with Ericsson's IP telephony platform will provide ITSPs, carriers, and corporations with a complete VoIP and billing solution.
No. 545, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

e-Net Intros Free Internet Phone Service
e-Net has announced an expanded strategic focus on the consumer market for voice-over-IP (VoIP) with the formation of a wholly owned subsidiary, ZeroPlus.com. The new business unit will initially provide consumers with their own permanent Internet phone numbers and specially developed software, enabling them to make and receive free phone calls over the Internet. Future phases of the business plan call for the introduction of fee-based enhanced services for the consumer market and the implementation of e-commerce solutions for the business sector - connecting online shoppers directly to a company's service center via Web-based applications. Consumers will be uniquely able to browse a Web site, speak, and shop at the same time - over the same phone line.
No. 546, www.itmag.com/freeinfo       

Net2Phone Launches Net2Fax
Net2Phone has released Net2 Fax, its new PC-to-fax software. Net2Fax allows PC users to send faxes through the Internet to any fax machine in the world. Net2Fax advantages include reduction of fax costs by up to 95 percent of the cost of traditional long-distance faxes, the ability to work on almost any PC platform, extensive fax broadcast capabilities, and a secure login for multiple users on the same PC. Net2Fax uses the same account numbers as Net2Phone's PC-to-phone software. Faxes are carried over the Internet from the user's PC until it reaches Net2Phones switches, and are then routed over Net2Phone's network to the intended fax machine.
No. 547, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Global One, Memotec Deliver Voice Over Frame Relay
Memotec Communications and Global One have announced an agreement that will introduce enhanced voice over frame relay access solutions to enterprise customers in Greece and neighboring countries. From its regional office in Athens, Global One will market Memotec's CX900e Access Switch and CX1000e Multi-Port Access Switch as part of its Global Voice and Data Business Solutions, delivering end-to-end, data and voice convergence over frame relay networks for both central and remote sites.
No. 548, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

IRE Drives Business-To-Business E-Commerce In Taiwan
Information Resource Engineering (IRE) has announced a formal distribution agreement with East Wind Technologies to launch the Safe Internet VPN Service, a managed VPN service program in Taiwan. EWT has formed a strategic alliance with the China Productivity Center (CPC) and International Integrated Systems (IISI) to distribute and support IRE's SafeNet technology and services. The Safe Internet VPN Service is modeled after Ire's managed VPN offering, SafeNet Trusted Services. Both services make it possible for organizations to provide VPN management 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the investment in equipment, facilities, and security expertise.
No. 549, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

SingTel, GTE To Interconnect IP Fax Networks
Singapore Telecom (SingTel) has announced that it has signed an agreement with GTE Internetworking to interconnect the companies' IP-based fax networks. By interconnecting the two networks, customers of both SingTel and GTE will have access to enhanced global IP-connectivity and value-added features for international IP-based fax services. The agreement also opens new channels and markets for both companies' IP-based fax offerings. Each company will have an expanded reach into international markets without having to invest further in the building out of its own IP-fax networks.
No. 550, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

AG Communication Systems, Glanayre Announce IN Product
Glenayre Technologies and AG Communication Systems announced that the companies have a joint marketing, research, and development agreement to provide a next-generation Intelligent Network-grade applications platform for the prepaid services market. This new platform will support current global telecommunications standards in a path within the Wireless Intelligent Network (WIN). Providing greater efficiency and cost-control, this next-generation platform will use currently available American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) SS7 standards to provide pre-WIN call control without the use of front-end switching equipment.
No. 551, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

White Pine Announces MeetingPoint 4.0
White Pine Software has announced its MeetingPoint server version 4.0 for enhanced IP-based video conferencing and group collaboration. The newest version of MeetingPoint includes a number of add-on components for specialized functions. These include continuous presence, the ability to view multiple windows simultaneously, and streaming media integration. With the option for integration of streaming media, MeetingPoint is able to broadcast a live interactive conference to hundreds or even thousands of people using a streaming media server and player. Within the core MeetingPoint product, enhancements include a new conference call-out capability, optimized audio and video performance, H.323 version 2 support.
No. 552, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Dynarc Delivers DTM Switches To Stoklab
Dynarc has announced the delivery of its DTM-based switches to Stoklab, the Swedish providers of metropolitan fiber-optic cable networks. The network is based in the city of Stockholm and the switches will be evaluated for the possibility of a major upgrade of the city's network infrastructure to provide advanced high-quality services to its users. The Stockholm metropolitan network offers various services to network operators and subscribers such as the integration of voice, video, and data. Stoklab will be linking all the schools in Stockholm to the fiber-optic network.
No. 553, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Lucent Announces Development Partner Program
Lucent Technologies has announced a Development Partner Program to support third-party software vendors in designing applications for IP Exchange Systems (IPES), Lucent's family of Internet telephony communications systems that converge voice, data, and fax over local and wide area networks. Under the program, participating software developers, hardware vendors, value added resellers and systems integrators write applications for use on IPES products, which run on open, standards-based platforms designed to help streamline application development.
No. 554, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Nokia, Spyglass Form Distribution Partnership
Nokia Wireless Software Solutions has announced that it has executed a worldwide distribution agreement with Spyglass that is intended to accelerate the acceptance and implementation of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) standard. The agreement allows Spyglass to license the Nokia WAP Browser to manufacturers of mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and other devices that rely on wireless communications. Spyglass will also provide engineering services to manufacturers for the customization and integration of the Nokia WAP Browser with the manufacturer's platform.
No. 555, www.itmag.com/freeinfo







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