Report: Wireless To Dominate Web by 2001

By the middle of next year, the main venue for Internet access will be through wireless devices, according to a new study by International Data Corp. (IDC).

“IDC predicts that by mid-2001, all digital cellular/PCS handsets shipped in the world will be WAP-capable,” said Iain Gillot, vice president of worldwide consumer and small business telecommunications research at the firm. “So it’s very realistic that the majority of Internet access will shift so that it is through wireless, and not wired, means.”

That means changes are in store for the way consumer e-commerce is conducted, said Gillot.

Companies Promote Shift

IDC says the shift to wireless access is driven in part by a growing trend on the part of phone service and other providers to encourage customers to use the Web for customer service, bill paying and account information. It is a logical extension for these companies to prompt consumers to buy products and services over their Internet-ready phones, Gillot said. “Through notification services, vendors can start to encourage the use of the wireless Internet,” he added.

As an example, Gillot said, if a consumer walks into a mall with a “smart” phone, the phone company knows that he has just entered the mall and can send him, through the phone, a coupon for $5 (US$) off a purchase at the Gap.

Big Deal or Big Brother?

There are ways to get around the perception of the “Big Brother” aspect of such an arrangement, Gillot said. For example, phones could provide a “deals” option allowing consumers to request such promotions, he said. Companies could also allow purchases to be made using the phone, which would be charged to the customer’s wireless bill.

Everyone will benefit from the growth in wireless use, Gillot told the E-Commerce Times. Handset manufacturers will gain as the popularity of the devices grows; carriers will be able to get a piece of the action through transaction fees and profit-sharing arrangements; both traditional and Web retailers can figure out many ways to promote sales over wireless devices. Software companies and credit card firms will also have a new source of revenue, he said.

Changing Web Design

Webmasters will need to adapt to the shift and retool their sites to accommodate the shift, Gillot said. According to IDC, by the end of 2002, there will be more Internet-enabled wireless device users than wired Internet users.

“Today, Internet sites have to be retrofitted for wireless users, but three years from now, it is conceivable they might have to be redesigned for wired users.”

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