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CELL PHONES ENTER CYBERSPACE WITH .MOBI

The mobile web is about to receive a major shake-up with the start of open registration for cell phone-specific website addresses.

The general public can now register websites ending with .mobi as the backers of the mobile net hope to overturn consumer apathy.

Only 10 percent of cell owners use their phones to surf the net due to concerns over cost, speed and poor content.

Sites ending dotmobi are designed for phones and must meet agreed standards.

The organisation charged with overseeing the domain name registration, Mobile Top Level Domain, expects 200,000 mobile sites to be registered in the next year.

Almost 13,000 companies have already registered dotmobi addresses as part of a pre-registration process open to trademark holders.

Neil Edwards, chief executive of MTLD, said: "The mobile web from the standpoint of content is in its absolute infancy.

"In terms of the number of sites and the content; it is not very good. If you try your favourite websites on a mobile phone, the chances are they are not going to work."

.Net Magazine Editor Dan Oliver agreed. "A lot of people would say now that the mobile web experience is not a particularly rich one"

MTLD is promising that websites with a registered dotmobi address will be optimised for mobile phones, guaranteeing users a consistent experience.

It costs about P150 to register a dotmobi site for a minimum two-year period.

Oliver said that while he agreed with the need to improve the mobile web experience, promises of a "consistent experience" did not always equate with reality.

"There are standards laid down for websites now for computers, but that does not always mean they are met."

But Edwards said MTLD would be "actively enforcing standards."

Thomas Husson, a mobile analyst with Jupiter Research, said it was too early to say if dotmobi would have an impact.

"I don't see any structural reasons why dotmobi would be anymore successful than .tv or anything else.

"Having said that, it is good that a common set of guidelines for the mobile experience is being laid down."

Husson said issues of cost and bandwidth were the big barriers to a mobile web.

"If you really want to create a mobile broadband experience, you need broadband speeds like High-Speed Downlink Packet Access which is not available to consumers yet. You also need 'all you can eat' tariffs so people don't need to worry about cost."

  But Edwards said: "Consumers will see costs come dramatically down due to optimisation of web pages. It will be like SMS, costing 20 cents (P1.20) to download a page of data."

Oliver said the incentive for a dotmobi domain name was clear - with more than two billion mobile phone users around the world, the market for mobile web use is still untapped.

More people currently have a mobile phone capable of accessing the internet than have a PC with net access, reported MTLD.

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