11 March 2004 A group of mobile phone companies have applied to ICANN, the Internet domain name registry, for a mobile-specific top level domain (TLD) in a bid to open up the full range of the Internet to wireless networks.
Microsoft, Nokia, Vodafone, 3, the GSM Association, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Orange, Samsung and Sun Microsystems have put aside their competitive differences to create an ‘mTLD’ on the same level as .com which would allow users of 3G, WiFi and GPRS networks to access a version of the Internet more appropriate to their devices.
“The wide industry participation highlights the shared objective of offering seamless global access and interoperability of mobile services and applications,” said Nokia chief technology officer Pertti Korhonen.
Authorising the creation and exact suffix of the .mob domain will be considered by ICANN over the next six months. ICANN said the process would be more open and consultative than for other new TLDs such as .biz or .name.
If the application is approved, the alliance will be authorised to issue mTLD names itself — a potentially lucrative enterprise. But it must first prove to ICANN that it has the technical expertise to do so. In turn, the group will ensure that companies buying mTLD names design their services to work with every kind of mobile phone and PDA.
“If you went onto a .mobile site, that site would be specifically tailored for use by a mobile device,” said a Vodafone spokesman. “The whole site would have been organized for speed of download, ease of use and simplicity.”
Analysts have welcomed the move as a first step to overcoming the differences in wireless technology that has held back the development of a wireless Internet on the same scale as its desktop equivalent. “There’s a lot of momentum behind it,” said Jessica Figueras, an analyst at Ovum. “It’s certainly a good thing to do. The question is, how much can they encourage mobile-friendly sites?”
Some observers have even suggested that .mob addresses will eventually replace mobile phone numbers, just as .com addresses replaced the string of numbers that make up an Internet protocol address.
The alliance said it expected theirs would be the only application for an mTLD registration licence. It invited other companies in the industry who had not yet joined up, such as Motorola and IBM, to do so.
Previous attempts to unite the mobile industry towards a mTLD were made in 2000 and 2003 but it is believed that they failed to attract enough support to raise the $45,000 required to make an ICANN application.