"Leading online retailer WHSmith expects to launch its Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) book retailing service by the end of March, making it the first bookseller to support the mobile technology. Customers will be able to use the new service for shopping easily and conveniently via their mobile phones and other wireless devices.
"The WAP service will allow users to buy WHSmith products wherever they are 24 hours a day. Customers will be able to select specific titles, read reviews, check orders, and purchase goods via their mobile phone display screen. Orders will be dispatched to them within 24 hours.
"According to Kate Kennedy, Managing Director of WHSmith Online, "No other UK bookseller, online or off, can match our ability to allow customers to shop via the Internet, mobile technology, digital TV or on the High Street. We see the wireless world as a key element to fulfilling our e-commerce potential. It allows us another opportunity to provide our customers with seamless service wherever, whenever they choose to buy."
"WHSmith's move towards wirefree communications and mobile-commerce is the next step in its plan to achieve 30 per cent of the UK online book market in the next three years. It is estimated that within five years wireless devices could account for 20 percent of the total e-commerce market. The UK M-commerce market is expected to be worth GBP2 billion by 2003.
"Currently, more people worldwide own a mobile phone than have access to the Internet via PC. According to recent statistics there were an estimated 220 million worldwide digital wireless-phone subscribers last year, and 150 million Internet users. One billion digital wireless-phone subscriptions are expected in the next five years. Internet-enabled mobile phones are expected to have 48 million users worldwide by 2002 and 204 million by 2005.
"WHSmith is currently in discussions with all the major network providers, including Orange, Vodaphone and BT Cellnet, to support their wireless service.