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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Mobile web shake-up gets started
Mobile phones on display
The mobile has become indispensable for millions of people
The mobile web is about to receive the biggest shake-up in years with the start of open registration for mobile phone-specific website addresses.

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

Only one in 10 mobile 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 (MTLD), expects 200,000 mobile sites to be registered in the next year during a so-called "land rush".

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

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.

'Favourite websites

"If you try your favourite websites on a mobile phone, the chances are they are not going to work."

Mobile phones in China
All corners of the globe have become mobile phone zones

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

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

It costs about $25 (14) 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," he said.

GSM Association
Hutchison (3)

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

He said that dotmobi websites would have other key benefits for mobile phone users, including ensuring that websites were faster to load due to optimisation.

'Cost effective'

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."

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

BBC website
Many websites, like the BBC, offer mobile versions

"If you really want to create a mobile broadband experience, you need broadband speeds like HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) which is not available to consumers yet."

The fastest speeds available to mobile phone users in the UK currently is about 300Kbps using a 3G network, much slower than a typical home broadband connection.

HSDPA, also known as 3.5G, promises five times that speed but still lags behind the advancements in ADSL and cable broadband speeds in the home or office.

"You also need 'all you can eat' tariffs so people don't need to worry about cost," said Mr Husson

But Mr Edwards said: "Consumers will see costs come dramatically down due to optimisation of web pages. It will be like SMS, costing 20 cents 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.

Cyber squatter fears

The so-called land rush has also raised fears over cyber squatters registering lucrative domain names.

Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer of domain name firm NetNames, said: "The threat to brand owners is as serious as with any other major domain launch.

"Any organisation which has yet to secure its dotmobi trademarks has left itself wide open to abuse from cyber squatters, domain name speculators and competitors."

Mr Edwards said he did expect some cyber squatters to register names during the registration process.

"The attractiveness of dotmobi names to cyber squatters is, I believe, far less than dotcom," he said.

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