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WAP Usage Nosedives in the Nordic Countries
WAP Usage Nosedives in the Nordic Countries

Despite a massive marketing drive from the entire Scandinavian telco industry, it turns out that WAP users are typically abandoning use of the technology after just a short time. Businesses, too, iare cold-shouldering WAP.

The dry statistics of a new report conducted by the Danish based Vilstrup Research, on the basis of interviews with 2,193 Scandinavians, are damning. 11% of the Danes interviewed, for example, had a WAP-enabled cell phone; but only 2% of these users used the WAP functionality on a daily basis. 39% of them used WAP once a month or less, and 38% didn't use it at all. This compares to a figure of 76% for usage of short messaging services (SMS).

The report also reveals a wide variation between Scandinavian countries. Twice as many Norwegians as Danes and Swedes own a WAP phone, for example; but only 30% of these Norwegian phone owners make daily use of SMS.

When asked would they buy a WAP-enabled one the next time they purchase a phone, 81% of Norwegians replied "No" as did 76% of Danes and 58% of Swedes. Generally, after users have tried it a couple of times, it seems they abandon it. Traffic on WAP sites that allow news to be collected from them are reporting a marked decline in usage; the same is true for the use of WAP phones to make purchases, where the number of WAP phone owners who have ever bought something on their phone has fallen from 16% to 6%.

77% of users said they felt that WAP had great possibilities, but that it wasn't yet living up to its potential. One of the researchers responsible for the report said that he could understand why telcos might now be hesitant about moving to GPRS, with its "always-on" connection--too fast. Several of the leading companies have their GPRS networks all ready to go, but are opting to play a waiting game. Not least because they are waiting on the delivery of GPRS handsets.

The Scandinavian telcos are acutely aware of the risk that they may one more time disappoint their customers, as has been the case with WAP. Over-selling GPRS before there are GPRS services would be a major tactical error - akin to selling TV sets before there were any TV channels!

So in the end the failure of WAP may paradoxically assist the industry in doing a better job of readying the world first for GPRS, when the time comes, and then next for UMTS, which is still envisaged as being introduced in 2002.

About Jakob Skouboe
Jakob Skouboe is a business correspondent for one of Europe's leading national dailies.

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