The system does do exactly what it says on the label. It allows mobile internet sites to bill for content. So if you have a WAP phone - and a GPRS or 3G connexion - it can bill you for services all paid for via your mobile handset.
In reality, most of the sites which can deploy WAP Billing are WAP based but Ericsson's system can cope with mobile sites that are actually HTML based as well.
The attraction to WAP Billing is that it acts as the middleman. Ericsson takes care of the interface to all the relevant mobile phone operators. Then it connects to any content providers who wishes to sign up.
The whole deal involves revenue sharing. Ericsson shares data traffic revenues with the operators and it shares billed goods revenue with the content providers. Ericsson's Peter Garside reckons that content providers can recover as much as 65 per cent of an item's cover price.
Where Ericsson reckons it has a USP is the fact that it has concluded deals with all of the operators in its given markets. That even includes 3 in Sweden. So content providers can finally sell their wares off-portal.
There's an upper limit of £5 for an item purchased using WAP Billing. Plus Ericsson reckons its system can cope with situations whereby the purchaser hasn't got enough airtime left to purchase the item.
The system is really good news for those who have been struggling to find a means to sell their mobile wares - ringtones and that's sort of thing - to consumers without investing a fortune. Garside even reckoned one site was up and running in two hours!
So what's the big difference between WAP Billing and the well-established Bango? Global reach seems to be one advantage. Once you're integrated into the system, you can sell things to 0.5 billion users in 10 countries.
Ericsson even reckons its system confirms to a new standard -pay4it - which provides an Open API standard which all operators will eventually adopt.
Sounds great for small to medium sized content suppliers. But Ericsson's rivals have the UK market stitched up so it'll be interesting to see how far the company can break in. µ