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WBT Interviews Mike Short, VP international strategy, BT Wireless
WBT Interviews Mike Short, VP international strategy, BT Wireless

WBT: Can you share your operator and WAP Forum executive perspective on WAP 2.0?
Mike Short: We're very excited about WAP 2.0, because XHTML and TCP/IP will bring more developers and more consistent standards to WAP. We need standards so users can receive content whenever and wherever they are. We also see a greater partnership developing between bodies such as the WAP Forum and IETF, and between the WAP Forum and the W3C, and perhaps operator bodies such as the GSM Association.

WBT: One of the issues that has impacted negatively on WAP has been the perceived slow connection times. What are operators doing to improve this?
Short: Most people don't buy a car based on speed alone. Yet, it certainly helps to have speed. The same applies in the mobile arena. Clearly it would be beneficial for a wireless content-oriented world to have richer graphics, and also faster speed for quicker download of content. The techniques that we have already trialed include compression and spoofing techniques, and one of the early introductions of new technologies such as GPRS. BT Wireless was the first telco in the world to launch GPRS: we completed the first call some 18 months ago, and this month, we launched the first nationwide consumer service. This will offer data rates up to 40Kbps and, with new terminals coming into the market, perhaps even higher. However, I would stress that customers shouldn't buy services based on speed alone, but rather on applications and convenience.

WBT: How can developers participate with BT Wireless in its WAP over GPRS initiatives and services?
Short: We've already pooled our developer forum so that all of BT Wireless can benefit, and that includes the six Genie ventures across Europe, which currently have 4-million active customers. That's very attractive to application developers who want to know more about not only the Genie mobile Internet service, but also our GPRS plans across Europe. We offer our 1,900 content partners technology input and advice not only on WAP and GPRS, but on every key application area. Sharing the technology with application partners is vital, as we all need to share a vision of the future of the mobile Internet industry. We believe 3G will in due course add greater capacity, but we can begin offering many of these applications today.

WBT: Can you tell our readers anything about the 3G trial you're conducting on the Isle of Man?
Short: BT has been the licensed operator on the Isle of Man for a number of years, and it was always clear that it would represent an extremely good environment for testing both the technology and customer reaction to a range of applications based on a 3G island network. The benefit of it being an island in the middle of the Irish Sea is that we can avoid interfering with other users of spectrum-based activity, and can therefore turn this into a great learning ground for our other 3G activities around the world.

We're very advanced in terms of the network build, and we expect to be opening it very soon. We may be constrained by the number of terminals available, but in terms of technology and applications, the learning ground has been immense.

WBT: How are you sourcing the terminals?
Short: The relationships we have include major infrastructure vendors such as NEC and Siemens, and that brings with it some terminals that we've been able to use in the trial system. In addition to that, we've been looking at other terminal vendors, as their products become available. We also have a long history of testing advanced multimedia terminals at our BT Adastral Park facility, which is a world-leading research facility.

WBT: Now that DoCoMo has announced a delay in their 3G launch, will BT be the first in the world to launch UMTS services?
Short: We're certainly on target to be one of the first in Europe, if not in the world, to launch 3G. Clearly, we don't want to over-promote something based on the technology alone, but we certainly believe we're ahead of the vast majority of operators.

About Margarita Strange
Margarita Strange is News Editor of WBT

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