The Internet Goes Wireless, IDC Says

FRAMINGHAM, MASS., FEBRUARY 8, 2000 — In 1999, a slew of wireless carriers introduced wireless data services, and the onslaught is expected to continue in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of wireless device users with access to inbound and outbound information services and Internet messaging will increase a whopping 728% from 7.4 million in 1999 to 61.5 million by 2003 in the United States alone, according to IDC.

"It is easy to envision a time in the next few years when the majority of Internet access could be through wireless and not wired means," said Iain Gillott, Vice President, Worldwide Consumer and Small Business Telecommunications research at IDC. "The irony is that many users will not know they are using the Internet over their wireless devices — they will simply see, as some do today, updates from CNN, CNBC, Reuters, and so on and take that fact for granted. The underlying infrastructure that makes this possible is invisible to them."

Despite the expected increase in the number of users accessing the Internet with wireless devices, IDC believes users' lack of understanding is thwarting interest. "Some cellular/PCS users believe access to the Internet means browsing and displaying full Web pages on the handset display," Gillott said. "This incorrect perception will have to change, and will change, as more services are offered and the awareness of actual wireless Internet capabilities increases."

According to IDC, two major occurrences pushed the wireless Internet market forward in 1999: Microsoft's involvement with the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Forum and the introduction of mobile-specific portals. WAP is a specification that provides easy, secure access to relevant Internet/intranet information and other services through mobile devices in a cost-effective manner.

Currently, the portals' involvement with wireless carriers is a market differentiator. However, because the contracts are nonexclusive, carriers will soon have to find another way to differentiate themselves. IDC believes the next differentiator will be location information and its use. "The power of receiving the location of — and directions from the subscriber's location to — the nearest Italian restaurant that takes a specified credit card cannot be overlooked," Gillott said.

IDC's new report, Wireless Access to the Internet, 1999: Everybody's Doin' It (IDC #B21187), examines current interest in wireless Internet access. The report looks at the interfaces, platforms, devices, portals, and services being used as well as the information content provided. The report analyzes market trends and the market's future. Forecasts are provided for the number of subscribers and the transaction value of wireless Internet services. The wireless application protocol is discussed and profiles of vendors that offer wireless Internet service offerings, access devices, browsers, servers, solutions, and content are included. To order a copy of the report, contact Bruce Atlas at 1-800-343-4952, ext. 4053 or at

About IDC

IDC delivers dependable, relevant, and high-impact data and insight on information technology to help organizations make sound business and technology decisions. IDC forecasts worldwide IT markets and technology trends and analyzes IT products and vendors, using a combination of rigorous primary research and in-depth competitive analysis. IDC is committed to providing global research with local content through more than 500 analysts in 42 countries worldwide. IDC's customers comprise the world's leading IT suppliers, IT organizations, and the financial community. Additional information can be found at

IDC is a division of International Data Group, the world's leading IT media, research, and exposition company.

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