The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) has received a lot of negative reviews in the industry press during the past year. Is WAP dead?

Most carriers in the United States use WAP protocols today and will continue to do so for many years. WAP's bad reputation in the industry recently is largely due to user perception rather than anything wrong with WAP protocols. WAP was sold to consumers by the press and many wireless carriers as the "Web on your cell phone." However, the user experience of a WAP application—mostly text, menus, and limited input—is vastly different from a user's typical Web experience; hence, WAP never met user expectations.

WAP is a set of protocols that cover Open System Interconnection (OSI) layers 3 through 7. WAP protocols are similar to Web protocols such as HTTP but are optimized for wireless networks. WAP provides wireless-network independence, so applications can run over different network technologies and wireless carriers. I've helped create several dispatch and delivery applications that run on WAP-enabled wireless phones. Don't disregard WAP; it's very useful in certain scenarios, and the low device cost makes WAP a very cost-effective solution for mobile and wireless applications.

Some people say that we won't need WAP when we have third generation (3G) mobile services. Although 3G provides greater wireless network bandwidth—up to 384Kbps—this bandwidth is shared between all users on the network, and bad coverage areas will still exist. So, carriers will continue to use WAP because it lets the carriers support 2 to 3 times as many users with the same bandwidth and provides much better quality of service when people use applications over the wireless network.