Australian men go WAP-happy on Thursdays

When it comes to the future of mobile internet, Australia's two largest carriers are sure of only one thing: wireless will soon surpass all other modes of accessing the web.

According to Mark Whitmore, senior manager of consumer applications for Telstra's wireless multimedia group, and Finola Thompson, C&W Optus' general manager for mobile internet and data, portability and customisation will be the driving factors behind wireless success.

The IT execs were speaking at a wireless internet conference earlier this week.

Whitmore and Thompson have their sights set on rapid consumer take-up of mobile internet use. Whitmore predicts Telstra will have more than one million customers with WAP-enabled handsets within 18 months, and Thompson expects wireless web access will have surpassed its earthbound counterpart within one year.

Whitmore and Thompson agreed that the emergence of wireless internet could see a radical reassessment of pricing structures designed to lure customers.

Whitmore speculated that wireless customers would be willing to pay for "unique", personalised information, such as location-specific traffic reports. Significant wireless-related revenues could also be drawn from advertising sponsorship, he said.

Thompson agreed that a per-usage pricing structure would tempt mobile users to "try (wireless) out". However, once users were comfortable with wireless internet, they would be more prepared to pay fixed rates for the service, she said.

In fact, Thompson and Whitmore both stressed the increasing importance of customer understanding. Thompson explained that pricing structures surrounding a market as young as that of wireless internet needed to stay flexible in order to continually meet uncharted consumer demands.

"The technology opportunities are huge, but unless they are customised to suit customers, they won't be realised," she said, adding that customers typically expected to receive wireless web content that is specifically catered to their own needs.

Whitmore referred to Telstra's market research, which revealed that more than 90 per cent of the carrier's 4000 WAP users are male. Most WAP usage occurs on Thursdays, he added.

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