The failure of Wap services to deliver on the promises of suppliers was, in hindsight, a major factor in the lack of take-up of the technology. Now that the next generation of mobile Internet services is just round the corner operators must ensure that they live up to users' expectations, writes Ross Bentley.
"Getting it right first time is a critical issue - mobile operators cannot launch a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network without measuring the quality of service of the network," says Kieran Moynihan, chief executive of Comnitel Technologies, a service assurance company that has recently won the contract to test the networks of MO2 (BT's spin-off mobile operator) throughout the Republic of Ireland.
"There are many areas where a mobile network can have problems," he says. "Whether it is in the mobile access device, the transmission network, the GPRS core network or the IP core network.
"There is also the added complexity of virtual operators, such as Virgin, and third-party content providers - the whole mobile infrastructure has become multi-faceted as it has matured," adds Moynihan.
He says one area where there have been some hitches has been from the third-party content providers.
"If a user has a problem downloading some content, few users will know the origin of this content and will automatically think that it is the operator that is failing in its delivery of a service. Testing for quality of service throughout a mobile network will go some way to protecting an operator's reputation."
Moynihan says the major operators are working to deliver mobile users a minimum GPRS connection speed of 20 kilobits per second and 95% availability.
"GPRS networks have been up for the past 12 months but the devices have not been forthcoming," he says. "Nokia has just released a new GPRS handset and we expect to see a big take-up next year from the second quarter onwards."
But, says Moynihan, if there are problems it will slow down the adoption cycle of the technology and this in turn will damage the success of third-generation (3G) services.
"Those who invested in 3G will be holding their breath to see how GPRS or 2.5G performs," he says.
"That is why the operators have concentrated on getting the basics right. A year ago there were ideas for 20 to 30 data services but now these grand ideas have been cut back so that operators can concentrate on delivering three or four key services, such as enhanced Short Message Service (SMS), e-mail and access to corporate networks," Moynihan concludes.