That's Totally WAC: Wireless Operators, Vendors Continue Work to Expand App Ecosystem

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  March 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of NGN.

The Wholesale Applications Community – which launched at last year’s Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) – last month at the same event in Barcelona revealed that it now has 68 member companies, eight service providers that have on-boarded WAC, five device markers supporting the spec in their products, and 12,000 applications in place.

WAC, an alliance of the world’s largest telecommunications operators and device manufacturers, had a stellar group of executives at its press conference at Mobile World Congress. Appearing at the event along with Peters Suh, CEO of WAC, were: Randall Stephenson, chairman, CEO and president of AT&T; Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson (News - Alert); Hyun- Myung Pyo of KT; Jean-Philippe Vanot of Orange; JK Shin, president of the mobile division at Samsung; Julio Linares, COO of Telefónica; and Michel Combes, deputy CEO of Vodafone.

The group’s aim is to release specifications to help expedite the creation and support of applications that can run on any device, any operating system and any member mobile operators’ network. It is also working to avail its service provider members’ network resources, such as presence information, to the developer community in a standard way.

“We want to maximize customer choice,” said Stephenson at AT&T, talking about the cross-platform benefits of WAC. “Almost half of our customers are accessing the same content on three or more devices.”

WAC 1.0, which is HTML 4-based, was released in September. That’s the version of WAC on which today’s run-time applications are based.

The WAC 2.0 specification unveiled last month at Mobile World Congress is based on HTML 5, so will allow for more rich media web-based applications. WAC 2.0 also offers stronger security and support for file system, calendar and orientation.

Once you open the door to HTML 5, said Stephenson, you develop applications that work on multiple platforms and operating systems.

“That’s when the 12,000 [applications] becomes a down payment,” he added.

WAC 3.0 is scheduled for release in September of this year. Like the second iteration of WAC, it will be based on HTML 5. It also will add network APIs and support for things like billing.

 “It’s truly amazing to see the speed of the executive of WAC,” said Hyun- Myung Pyo of KT.

The service providers that have on-boarded WAC at this point include China Mobile (News - Alert), MTS, Orange, Telefonica, telenor, SMART, Verizon and Vodafone. The five device makers include LG, Huawei, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE.

Although WAC is creating app specs, Suh said different service providers will maintain their own app stores (although Ericsson mentioned that it offers a white-label app store that it can maintain for service providers if they wish) and set their own pricing for applications.

Linares of Telefónica said that when his company started its app ecosystem it began by working with developers at the local level in different countries, but it soon realized that was not the most efficient path to building an ecosystem. So Telefónica began a larger push to create an ecosystem. But the WAC effort takes all this to the global level, he said, so that seemed a logical evolution for Telefónica’s efforts on this front.

However, WAC efforts are also happening on the regional level – at least in one case. That effort involves a threesome of Korean service providers.

SK Telecom, Korean Telecom and LG U+ last month revealed they are working together to create a single, Korea-specific clearinghouse that will link to the WAC global application development system. The platform will handle transactions and processing to ensure that global WAC applications are available and optimized for use by the three service providers and their mobile customers. HP, which has been in the service delivery platform space since its inception, will help the Korean carriers build the application and related integration, said Joe Dyoub, worldwide product solution manager, service delivery platform, HP Communications and Media Solutions.

The Korea-WAC platform, which is scheduled to launch later this year, is being implemented by a consortium formed by the Mobile Internet Business Association, or MOIBA, and the three service providers with support from the Republic of Korea.

While WAC got a lot of press at and following Mobile World Congress, Ken Lee, at director of product marketing at Oracle, says that much of what’s now being called WAC was already in place under separate initiatives.

For example, he says, WAC 1.0 is essentially a new name for the work that came out of the Joint Innovation Lab formed by China Mobile, Softbank Mobile, Verizon Wireless (News - Alert) and Vodafone. JIL and WAC were combined last year.

“So what they announced was really nothing new,” says Lee.

And WAC 3.0 is essentially the same thing as GSMA OneAPI (News - Alert), a set of application programming interfaces that network operators can use to make their network resources available to developers.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi