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Wireless Access : Cell Phones, Part 2

Wireless Access : Cell Phones, Part 2

September 21, 2002
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" ...imagine if you could contact the person walking right outside your store. How much would you pay to talk to that person? "

Now that you understand a little about the technology involved in surfing the Web from your cell-phone, it's time to investigate the costs and benefits of Internet access using your cell phone:

How Much Does Wireless Internet Cost?
Depending on the plan you choose, wireless Internet access could cost you as much as 60 cents per minute in the United States, and that's before long distance charges. The average plan uses the existing minutes on your cell phone for Internet access minutes, and bills at a rate of up to 40 cents per additional minute used. This means that it would cost you around 6 cents to download this page on the average wireless Internet access package.

For some people, the need to stay in contact far outweighs the monetary cost of the access. Wireless e-mail, text messaging, and even wireless chat are all important functions of their business lives.

Unfortunately, the cost involved in buying the soda from the vending machine with your cell phone are far more cost prohibitive. First of all, every soda machine would need an upgrade in the hundreds of dollars to allow them to stay in contact with the cell phone. Multiple this by the millions of soda machines worldwide, and you can see why many companies are hesitant to use this technology. Then look at the possibility of sending wireless signals to a vending machine that fraudulently make them dispense product, and you can see why this technology is far from being in your neighborhood.

What Services Does Wireless Internet Offer?
The biggest push in the wireless Internet arena is towards wireless advertising. The golden days of Internet advertising have come and gone, with most businesses unwilling to pay much for advertising space anymore. For a second, imagine if you could contact the person walking right outside your store. How much would you pay to talk to that person? What would you tell them if you could instantly talk to them when they reached a certain distance from your location?

This is the newest trend in Internet advertising. Because wireless Internet access is mobile, you can reach people in new ways. By tracking their location, you can determine their proximity to your store. This has big advantages over normal Internet access, which is generally restricted to your house. Advertisers are lining up for the ability to contact customers that they can target on a street-by-street level.

If you think telemarketers are bad, wait until you walk down a busy street with your cell phone and get bombarded by 40 businesses advertising their wares. Worst of all, it will cost you the Internet access time. Advocacy and privacy groups are having a field day with this subject, believing that the invasion of your rights (along with the ability to pinpoint your exact location) is unconstitutional. The courts will end up deciding this one in the end. ...whether it's right for you depends on how much you value the ability to stay in contact with the world.

Do You Really Need Wireless Internet?
As I stated before, wireless Internet is still in it's infancy. It suffers from a lack of substantive products and huge costs. But whether it's right for you depends on how much you value the ability to stay in contact with the world. Cell phones have always given us the ability to talk. Therefore, they're their own contact medium. E-mail has also revolutionized the way we talk. Mixing the two together will give us a whole new way of staying in contact.

Most of us don't need to stay in contact that badly. It is helpful for business people that require e-mail access on the go, but the everyday person doesn't get many e-mails that are of life-or-death emergency importance. Most estimates put wireless Internet purchases under the $10 million dollar mark annually thus far, so not many people have found shopping with their cell phones all that interesting, either.

In Conclusion
Wireless Internet is a toy, just as most cell phones are in general. Unfortunately, cell phones themselves have some realistic value in terms of communication and safety. Wireless Internet doesn't. Image calling 911 on your cell phone to report a car crash. Then image attempting to type in www.911.com, and explaining the same situation by typing it in on your 10-digit cell phone keypad. I see very few people actually attempting this, and it's a hilarious sight to watch when someone attempts to use their cell phone for these purposes. Until they can iron out many of the wrinkles and costs involved with wireless Internet, it will remain in most of our minds a toy. Of course, only a few years ago many people thought that the Internet was just a toy:


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