Today’s mobile Internet is a predictable letdown, with feeble GSM networks and operator missteps ensuring consumer discontent, according to a newly published brief from Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR). But rapid advances will ease the problems and draw 54% of Europeans to the mobile Internet by 2005. Forrester will further explore Europe’s mobile Internet at its Retail and Marketing Forum Europe event, taking place in Amsterdam from October 24-26.

“WAP — Wireless Application Protocol, Europe’s standard technology for delivering Internet content to mobile phones — has become a dirty word for a number of reasons,” commented Matthew M. Nordan, research director at Forrester Research B.V. “This comes as no surprise. Today’s anaemic adoption falls in line with Forrester’s expectations. Creaky GSM networks and weak services — not the WAP content standard — guaranteed a poor user experience this year.”

“However, we believe that these issues will be gradually resolved over the next year. WAP 1.2, in phones next summer, will add push capabilities and user authentication. Operators will make high-speed GPRS network technology widely available late next year by building on existing GSM networks. Finally, ‘walled-garden’ services will give way to open offerings that drive airtime upward — a shift already being forced by UK and French regulators,” Nordan said. “These changes will drive widespread adoption: Nearly three-quarters of Europeans will carry a Net-enabled mobile phone by 2005 and more than half will regularly use it,” he added.

However, for the next 12 months WAP can support nothing more than a poor, limited user experience. During this period, European retailers, content providers, and financial services firms should set realistic consumer expectations. Those that overpromise on the mobile Internet risk public scorn, and awkward mobile shopping efforts could alienate customers permanently. Only simple offers with obvious value will thrive.

“Pundits say that the WAP standard is dead. Get real: WAP’s broad support and alignment with next-generation XHTML gives it a five-year life. But the standard will evolve rapidly: The WAP of 2005 will look as different as today’s Web does from the gray-screen Mosaic browsers of 1995,” Nordan concludes.

Forrester’s Retail & Marketing Forum Europe: Thriving On Interactive Channels is taking place in Amsterdam from October 24-26. Forrester analysts will be joined by industry speakers from leading firms including AOL Europe, BSkyB,, and KarstadtQuelle to discuss how mobile devices and interactive television create new opportunities for European marketers. For more information or to register for this event, contact Forrester at +31 20 305 48 48 or visit,1550,121,FF.html