Mobile banking is closer than you think

Over the last two months there's been a lot of talk about the latest technology in mobile communications, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol).

Optus made it first to launch, commercialising ‘Networker' in the first week of December, followed closely by Telstra less than one week later. Vodafone have kept very quiet and are still in trial mode. Nokia has given us the Nokia 7110, Motorola the ‘L' series. But what does it all mean to the consumer?

Put plainly, WAP is a transport mechanism for various non-voice services. Or, a way in which internet information can be translated into a form that can be read on a mobile phone. Unlike SMS (short message service) which allows short data transmission from phone to phone, WAP enabled phones provide browser capabilities, supporting E-mail and E-commerce as well.

The variety of information you can access right now includes news, sports, share prices, horoscopes and weather. E-mail access, whilst available, may require a change of address depending on the network.

Westpac has recently become the first Australian bank to offer mobile banking services using the WAP platform. All information is currently text based (due to the time taken for downloads) although within twelve months we will begin to see graphics feature on WAP phones.

Usage of phones for data in Australia (as opposed to voice calls) more than doubled in the last year. On the Telstra network alone, over six million text messages (SMS) were sent in the month of November. With mobile penetration in Australia currently at 37% and experts predicting that figure to rise above 50% within the next 24 months, WAP looks set to stay. By the end of 2000, 80% of all new phones will include a WAP browser. With Optus Networker offering discount tariffs for the service until March 2000 and Telstra offering their service for a free trial for the same period, both networks have experienced their own sets of teething problems. The partnership between Optus and Nokia would surely taste somewhat bitter after the alleged product faults experienced from the first batch of 7110's delivered and reported to be ongoing.

Despite this, the future for information technology looks bright and exciting and WAP seems sure to open up a world of even more choice. The world is definitely going mobile!

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