U.S. Wireless Web: 96 Million by 2005

“Simple yet practical.”

That’s how analysts at Jupiter Media Metrix describe the next generation of wireless services they expect to dominate the wireless Web market in its initial stages, while attempts at more complex applications will likely get hung up amidst limited bandwidth, multiple platforms and competing service providers.

For example, while broadband mobile connections are expected to provide a viable target platform in Japan within two years, Jupiter estimates companies focusing on the U.S. or European markets will have to wait between four and six years.

That boils down to a staple of games, short messaging and positioning capabilities, at least in the immediate future, which analyst Seamus McAteer says will be enough to vault wireless Web use in the U.S. from a partly 4.1 million in 2000 to 96 million by 2005.

Consequently, McAteer says industry players must scale U.S. plans for mobile interactive services in accordance with the current technological hurdles; barriers he says are not expected to go away anytime soon.

“While the number of people in the U.S. logging on from mobile devices is about to enter a period of rapid growth, the wireless industry must not underestimate the complexity of delivering Web services in a highly competitive and fractured environment,” explained McAteer. “This means the industry must hold back on ambitious plans to deliver mobile multimedia, and instead focus on delivering simple yet practical interactive services [that] are viable across multiple networks and narrow bandwidth.”

Clear viability exists in both the hardware and software industries, according to Jupiter’s latest report, including findings that indicate nearly 75 million mobile Web users in 2005 will be using voice-centric handsets, while only 7.3 million will be using data-centric handsets. Meanwhile, just under 14 million are expected to be mobilized through the use of PDAs.

McAteer also expects regional carriers will struggle as consolidation occurs amongst national carriers, which he expects will decrease in number to three giants within five years. Lack of solid standards, however, will continue to hurt even the big boys.

“Intense competition in the handset sector will yield carriers a greater degree of control over the platform for mobile content,” said McAteer. “[We] predict, however, that carriers in the U.S. will not enjoy the same clout as their counterparts in the Japanese market, which is characterized by tight adherence to technology standards devised by mobile operators.”

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