T-Mobile claims its Web’n’walk service, already available in Germany and now expanded to the UK, breaks down the walls of mobile Web surfing. Users are able to access almost any Web site — with some exceptions — and view it just as it would look on a computer, according to company representatives.
The telecommunications giant is not the first to enter the UK market with mobile phone browsing. O2 offers i-Mode through a strategic agreement it entered with NTT DoCoMo early this year. T-Mobile’s move is just one of many in the highly competitive mobile data market, one analyst said.
“It’s representative of a broader series of initiatives we’re going to see aimed at leveraging the higher speed and lower latency of 3G networks to offer a better browsing experience,” John Jackson, senior analyst with Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. The technology, however, is not there yet, he said.
“We are where we need to be on the throughput side, but there’s still considerable work to be done on how content is rendered on the phone. It’s basically a brick out of the walled garden, a hint at momentum toward a more open browsing environment.”
Currently, most mobile Web browsing services offer a limited number of sites that have been stripped down for easier mobile downloading and viewing, but T-Mobile’s browser opens with the Google home page and reportedly formats all viewed pages for minimal scrolling.
T-Mobile says it will be able to increase speeds to 1.8 Mbps with HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access). That’s four times faster than the 3G network in use in Europe today. But speed is not the only factor in mobile access: “Speed is one thing; service continuity is another,” Jackson said.
T-Mobile will begin selling five new handsets, with large color screens, capable of delivering the service. Three more devices will be available by the holiday season.
But the make-or-break will not be the technology, but how consumers choose to use it.
“What is it? It’s a lot of different things to different people. The service is just an enabler. It’s up to the market to decide what the uses are,” Jackson said. “The underlying technology is just a foundation for a bunch of innovations.”
Jackson also pointed out that this technology will be slow in coming to the United States.
“You can’t Web’n’walk with GPRS [General Packet Radio Service],” he said. GPRS, which has much slower data transfer rates than 3G networks, is the predominant mobile phone technology in the United States.