Mon, 21 Aug 2000

More choices offered by cellular-phone makers

There is a lot more of "the shape of things to come" in cellular phones, now. For most users, handsets are the familiar face of mobile communications. They are waiting for the new "faces" as developments will give them a whole new range of capabilities, transforming the handsets into multipurpose devices for communications.

Check some telecommunications manufacturers have introduced multiband, multimode handsets, used in 900MHz or 1800/1900MHz networks. In line with the fierce competition, leading vendors are offering many more features with pleasant models, size and weight.

The recent developments in technology have allowed users to get the Internet on their handsets. Many cell phones are now WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) compliant, featuring the Internet in mobility. Such handsets enable users to access Internet-based information such as news, stock quotes, phone number look-up, weather updates, airline information and a scheduling calendar. Some also allow users wireless e-mail and database access through the Web servers. Some others have the ability to connect through a cable to personal digital assistants (PDAs).

We are also seeing the evolution from GSM network which currently works at 9.6 kbps to the next step, the Global Packet radio Service (GPRS), which will be offering greater bandwidth. Then we will come to the 3G mobile data services, based on a technology dubbed Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS).

Do not expect too much that cell phone users in Indonesia will enjoy the implementation of the new generations. It is estimated that the UMTS, which will operate in 2 Mbps bandwidth, will be implemented within the next three years or four years. Indonesia will need a longer period to enjoy cellular networks to operate at higher frequencies or broader bandwidth though licenses to operate cellular services in 1.8 GHz have been granted to several firms.

But Indonesia is not so as lagging behind compared to other nations. WAP was recently introduced. Though WAP services will be much more useful when the cellular network operates in broader bandwidth, a few users in Indonesia are already happy, boasting they can enjoy WAP services. GSM, which is popularly subscribed to in Indonesia, is the ideal technology to provide Internet access. The business of selling as many WAP-based handsets, such as Ericsson R320, Motorola A6188, Nokia 7110 and Siemens 35 series, as possible goes on.

Despite the fact that WAP services are still limited, users are fond of owning WAP-based handsets. Some found the handsets offer better convenience as they do not really care about the WAP services.

The introduction of WAP is expected to enhance the use of SMS (Short Messaging Service). With this service, users can get information on game scores, stock exchange updates, traffic, etc.

Furthermore, as electric commerce (e-commerce) multiplies, WAP is expected to facilitate online shopping, banking, trading and other cyber commercial activities. Humankind will indeed enter an era of digital economy, therefore wireless e-commerce, or m- commerce (mobile-commerce) will become such a basis for that.

Isn't it tempting? No wonder more people have decided to use WAP-based handsets in Indonesia, though the services are not yet so good as expected. The speed via the current GSM networks results in slow-going services, causing higher cost, because, as we know, Indonesia's telecommunications tariffs are quite high.

There are a lot more sophisticated and expensive handsets available which are not WAP-compliant but if you want to surf the WAP and have bought WAP-based cell phones, be prepared for some inconveniences. (icn)

Upcoming topics for IT Superhighway: Put the gadget on your wrist -- Aug. 28 Hi-end -- Sept. 04 Input devices -- Sept. 11 Technology

handset II -- Sept. 18