number of subscribers with wireless access to the Internet through laptops, personal
digital assistants (PDAs), cellular phones, pagers, and other wireless devices
is rapidly increasing. In 1998, 1.2 million people had wireless web access. IDC
predicts that in 2003 the number of wireless Internet subscribers will be 40.4
million. Because this market is growing at such a fast rate, content providers
see an opportunity to enter the market by forming partnerships with wireless carriers
to deliver data applications to wireless devices. In fact, companies solely dedicated
to this type of service are starting to appear. Analysts
predict that e-commerce will be a key application for wireless Internet access.
Buying books, trading stocks, reserving hotel rooms and renting cars from anywhere
will be easy and consumers will demand these types of services. IDC states that
the wireless Internet transaction value in 1998 was $4.3 billion. This number
is expected to increase to $38 billion in 2003.
IDC predicts that carriers will
eventually charge a flat monthly fee for wireless access. Fees for wireless access
will drop to be equal to or less than voice services in the next few years, allowing
most people to afford wireless access to the Internet.The
Strategis Group defines a wireless portal as "a customized point of entry
through which a wireless subscriber can access a limited number of Internet sites
and services." Many wireless carriers offer internet content to their subscribers
through partnerships with some of the large internet content portal companies.
For example, AT&T offers its wireless Internet Digital PocketNet subscribers
content from ABCNews.com, Bloomberg.com, AOL, and ESPN.com. Sprint PCS partners
with AOL, CNN.com, Amazon.com and The Weather Channel. Other wireless carriers,
such as USWest and AirTouch, have similar deals. Wireless networks that transmit
data at speeds equivalent to or under 56 Kbps, or narrowband networks, are currently
more readily available today than wireless broadband networks. Data delivery to
wireless devices will be restricted by narrowband networks.