Omnitel Boosts WAP Service

Omnitel Pronto Italia, Italy's second cellular phone operator, yesterday announced the launch of an enhanced Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Internet portal with 100 services available to clients with WAP capable handsets equipped with micro browsers.

"We are the first operator to offer a multi-access Internet portal that can be contacted via Internet, by voice from an Omnitel cell phone and by WAP," an Omnitel spokesman said. The Omnitel portal (, which first began operating in May 1999, now offers an e-mail service to clients, who can receive and send messages directly from their cell phone, the spokesman said. Customers will be alerted to the arrival of a new message by a Short Message Service (SMS) on their cell phone display.

Within the Omnitel portal, more than 100 services intended for use by mobile phone customers are available, while within a few weeks, thanks to an agreement between Omnitel and Lycos Inc., the first WAP search engine will be introduced to the portal, Omnitel said in a prepared statement.

An e-commerce service, also accessible by WAP, will get under way within the next few weeks, offering a wide variety of products from more than 100 major companies, the company said.

By the end of the year, at least a million Italians will be navigating on the Net with their cell phones, will be exchanging e-mails and beginning to buy products online, Omnitel CEO Vittorio Colao said in a prepared statement.

Omnitel is not yet involved in the provision of electronic share trading, currently being offered by a number of Italian stockbrokers, but expects to announce partnerships which will permit the addition of e-trading to its portfolio of services in the near future, the Omnitel spokesman said.

The uptake of WAP technology was, until recently, delayed by a shortage of WAP capable handsets, but that is no longer the case, he said. "That is not a problem. There are many more of the handsets available now," he said.

Omnitel has been organizing special WAP days to demonstrate the potential of the new technology in its 42 Spazio Omnitel stores throughout Italy, the company said. Last Saturday ,20 percent of customers who purchased a cell phone in the Omnitel stores opted for a model equipped with WAP technology, it said.

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