Cable & Wireless HKT Mobile Services is investing $US257.4 million in wireless application protocol (WAP) technology to upgrade its i.Menu service, which was launched in August this year.
The upgraded service, slated to begin by the end of the year, allows users to access the internet for information and conduct e-commerce using a WAP-compliant mobile phone, enabling such activities as tracking parcel express shipments, making airline schedule inquiries and hotel reservations, exchanging personal e-mail and performing job searches. When the service is launched there will be nine types of information available, including news, financial and lifestyle information. All of the information will be displayed in English, with some displayed in Chinese as well.
"We aim not only at voice communication using mobile phones, but also at integrating the mobile phone and the Internet to develop for our customers a true 'mobile portal'," said William Cheung, managing director of C&W HKT Mobile Services.
"We see the mobile communications industry evolving, with the mobile phone becoming a major e-commerce tool, supporting half of all e-commerce business by the year 2002," Cheung said.
"And when the third-generation mobile communications services are launched and a more mature technological platform emerges, instead of supporting voice communication, mobile phones will be the prime tool for multimedia data transmission."
Cheung is optimistic that the new service will be welcomed by mobile phone users. He estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of people having access to WAP services will use this technology to retrieve information from the 'Net using their mobile phones.
At present, there is one mobile phone for every two people in Hong Kong, but Cheung believes that within a few years that ratio will be one-to-one. By that time, over half of mobile users will use WAP technology, not only in Hong Kong, but worldwide, he predicted.