Wireless Application Protocol Tutorial
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  • Wireless Application Protocol

    Wireless Application Protocol WAP is a technical standard for accessing information over a mobile wireless network. A WAP browser is a web browser for mobile devices such as mobile phones that uses the protocol. Introduced in 1999, WAP achieved some popularity in the early 2000s, but by the 2010s it had been largely superseded by more modern standards. Most modern handset internet browsers now fully support HTML, so they do not need to use WAP markup for web page compatibility, and therefore, most are no longer able to render and display pages written in WML, WAP's markup language.

    Before the introduction of WAP, mobile service providers had limited opportunities to offer interactive data services, but needed interactivity to support Internet and Web applications such as email, stock prices, news and sports headlines. The Japanese i-mode system offered another major competing wireless data protocol.

    Technical specifications

    The WAP standard described a protocol suite or stack allowing the interoperability of WAP equipment and software with different network technologies, such as GSM and IS-95 also known as CDMA.

    The bottom-most protocol in the suite, the Wireless Datagram Protocol WDP, functions as an adaptation layer that makes every data network look a bit like UDP to the upper layers by providing unreliable transport of data with two 16-bit port numbers origin and destination. All the upper layers view WDP as one and the same protocol, which has several "technical realizations" on top of other "data bearers" such as SMS, USSD, etc. On native IP bearers such as GPRS, UMTS packet-radio service, or PPP on top of a circuit-switched data connection, WDP is in fact exactly UDP.

    WTLS, an optional layer, provides a public-key cryptography-based security mechanism similar to TLS.

    WTP provides transaction support reliable request/response adapted to the wireless world. WTP supports more effectively than TCP the problem of packet loss, which occurs commonly in 2G wireless technologies in most radio conditions, but is misinterpreted by TCP as network congestion.

    This protocol suite allows a terminal to transmit requests that have an HTTP or HTTPS equivalent to a WAP gateway; the gateway translates requests into plain HTTP.

    The Wireless Application Environment WAE space defines application-specific markup languages.

    For WAP version 1.X, the primary language of the WAE is Wireless Markup Language WML. In WAP 2.0, the primary markup language is XHTML Mobile Profile.

    WAP Push was incorporated into the specification to allow the WAP content to be pushed to the mobile handset with minimal user intervention. A WAP Push is basically a specially encoded message which includes a link to a WAP address.

    WAP Push was specified on top of Wireless Datagram Protocol WDP; as such, it can be delivered over any WDP-supported bearer, such as GPRS or SMS. Most GSM networks have a wide range of modified processors, but GPRS activation from the network is not generally supported, so WAP Push messages have to be delivered on top of the SMS bearer.

    On receiving a WAP Push, a WAP 1.2 or later -enabled handset will automatically give the user the option to access the WAP content. This is also known as WAP Push SI Service Indication. A variant, known as WAP Push SL Service Loading, directly opens the browser to display the WAP content, without user interaction. Since this behaviour raises security concerns, some handsets handle WAP Push SL messages in the same way as SI, by providing user interaction.

    The network entity that processes WAP Pushes and delivers them over an IP or SMS Bearer is known as a Push Proxy Gateway PPG.

    A re-engineered 2.0 version was released in 2002. It uses a cut-down version of XHTML with end-to-end HTTP, dropping the gateway and custom protocol suite used to communicate with it. A WAP gateway can be used in conjunction with WAP 2.0; however, in this scenario, it is used as a standard proxy server. The WAP gateway's role would then shift from one of translation to adding additional information to each request. This would be configured by the operator and could include telephone numbers, location, billing information, and handset information.

    Mobile devices process XHTML Mobile Profile XHTML MP, the markup language defined in WAP 2.0. It is a subset of XHTML and a superset of XHTML Basic. A version of Cascading Style Sheets CSS called WAP CSS is supported by XHTML MP.

    Multimedia Messaging Service MMS is a combination of WAP and SMS allowing for sending of picture messages.


    The WAP Forum was founded in 1998 by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Unwired Planet. It aimed primarily to bring together the various wireless technologies in a standardised protocol. In 2002 the WAP Forum was consolidated along with many other forums of the industry into Open Mobile Alliance OMA.

    The first company to launch a WAP site was Dutch Telfort BV in October 1999. The site was developed as a side project by Christopher Bee and Euan McLeod and launched with the debut of the Nokia 7110. Marketers hyped WAP at the time of its introduction, leading users to expect WAP to have the performance of fixed non-mobile Internet access. BT Cellnet, one of the UK telecoms, ran an advertising campaign depicting a cartoon WAP user surfing through a Neuromancer-like "information space". In terms of speed, ease of use, appearance and interoperability, the reality fell far short of expectations when the first handsets became available in 1999. This led to the wide usage of sardonic phrases such as "Worthless Application Protocol", "Wait And Pay", and WAPlash.

    Between 2003 and 2004 WAP made a stronger resurgence with the introduction of wireless services such as Vodafone Live!, T-Mobile T-Zones and other easily accessible services. Operator revenues were generated by transfer of GPRS and UMTS data, which is a different business model than that used by the traditional Web sites and ISPs. According to the Mobile Data Association, WAP traffic in the UK doubled from 2003 to 2004.

    By the year 2013, WAP use had largely disappeared. Most major companies and websites have since retired from the use of WAP and it has not been a mainstream technology for web on mobile for a number of years.[]

    Most modern handset internet browsers now support full HTML, CSS, and most of JavaScript, and do not need to use any kind of WAP markup for webpage compatibility. The list of handsets supporting HTML is extensive, and includes all Android handsets, all versions of the iPhone handset, all Blackberry devices, all devices running Windows Phone, and many Nokia handsets.

    WAP saw major success in Japan. While the largest operator NTT DoCoMo did not use WAP in favor of its in-house system i-mode, rival operators KDDI au and SoftBank Mobile previously Vodafone Japan both successfully deployed WAP technology. In particular, J-Phone's Sha-Mail picture mail and Java JSCL services, as well as au's chakuuta/chakumovie ringtone song/ringtone movie services were based on WAP. Like in Europe, WAP and i-mode usage declined in the 2010s as HTML-capable smartphones became popular in Japan.

    The adoption of WAP in the ]

    In recognition of the problem, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission FCC issued an order on 31 July 2007 which mandated that licensees of the 22-megahertz wide "Upper 700 MHz C Block" spectrum would have to implement a wireless platform which allows customers, device manufacturers, third-party application developers, and others to use any device or application of their choice when operating on this particular licensed network band.


    Commentators criticized several aspects of Wireless Markup Language WML and WAP. Technical criticisms include:

    Other criticisms address the wireless carriers' particular implementations of WAP:

    Protocol design lessons from WAP

    The original WAP model provided a simple platform for access to web-like WML services and e-mail using mobile phones in Europe and the SE Asian regions. In 2009 it continued to have a considerable user base. The later versions of WAP, primarily targeting the United States market, were designed[] for a different requirement - to enable full web XHTML access using mobile devices with a higher specification and cost, and with a higher degree of software complexity.

    Considerable discussion has addressed the question whether the WAP protocol design was appropriate. Some[] have suggested that the bandwidth-sparing simple interface of Gopher would be a better match for mobile phones and Personal digital assistants PDAs.

    The initial design of WAP specifically aimed at protocol independence across a range of different protocols SMS, IP over PPP over a circuit switched bearer, IP over GPRS, etc.. This has led to a protocol considerably more complex than an approach directly over IP might have caused.

    Most controversial, especially for many from the IP side, was the design of WAP over IP. WAP's transmission layer protocol, WTP, uses its own retransmission mechanisms over ]