Despite the hype, mobile phones using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) aren't quite ready for prime-time, according to mobile phone operator Orange. And the industry should be wary of raising similar expectations for cordless connectivity technology Bluetooth.

WAP is a strong part of the mobile telecommunications strategy going forward, but the technology has not lived up to the hype and won't be able to do so for some time, said David Lock, Orange's commercial strategy manager, at the Networks Telecom 2000 conference. "It will be quite awhile before we get it there," he said.

"Although we were the first to bring WAP technology to the marketplace, we still have some concern that the customer experience is not as good as we'd like it to be," Lock said.

According to Lock, one of the big problems with the mobile phones using WAP technology is the small size of the screen in the handsets. "The question is how to present the experience; it is terminal driven. We have been receiving quite a number of concerned comments (from our customers) about the WAP experience," Lock said.

Orange has also found that its users expected the WAP phones to be much easier to use than they are, Lock said. He added that Orange believed WAP would be working up to customer expectations sometime during the first quarter of 2001.

Lock told the audience that WAP suffered from the pre-release attention it received, both from the press and from the industry itself. "The WAP industry is great at hyping itself but it hyped itself out beyond all expectations," he said.

Lock warned that the telecommunications and technology industries should make sure the same thing does not happen with the cordless connectivity technology Bluetooth.

The idea of Bluetooth is to avoid the inconvenience of cables by enabling devices such as mobile phones, PCs, printers and handheld computers to communicate with one other over short distances using low-power radio waves.

Ericsson said it expects its Bluetooth products to be released in the fourth quarter but Lock added a note of caution to the arrival of Bluetooth on the consumer market. "I do say to the industry, let's make sure we don't have another WAP when it comes to Bluetooth. Let's make sure Bluetooth is fully tested before we put it on the market," he said.

Lock also gave a brief preview of Orange's upcoming video-enabled mobile telephone. "This will be the world's first (GSM) video phone, and will be using the high speed circuit switched data technology," Lock said. The handheld phone will allow for video conferencing, e-mail access and Internet browsing as well as hands-free operation in video and audio modes.

The video mobile phone will be made available in the fourth quarter. "Along with partners, we are manufacturing the device which breaks new ground for Orange," Lock said.