Figures released yesterday by leading market researcher BMRB International show that fewer than one adult Briton in fifty is using a mobile phone to access the internet.

The report's findings confound the WAP industry's multi-million pound marketing spend on advertising and handset subsidy. Even among regular internet users, less than 5% have opted for wireless services.

The news will please neither the mobile networks nor the capital markets, which last year jointly pumped £22.5 billion ($32.2bn) into the purchase of third-generation licences.

Insiders attribute consumer apathy to WAP’s technical shortcomings – “worse than a waste of money,” say some critics. According to Steve Ives, chief executive of wireless services start-up 3G LAB. “The operators have hyped up expectations beyond what their networks and content can deliver. Use of WAP is becoming almost an illicit activity.”

Promotional strategy is also panned: "With the exception of Orange, the network operators seem to have the idea that technology itself sells. It doesn't. Marketing does," accuses Dennis Andrews, senior research manager at technology research specialist EMC.

In the UK internet sector as a whole, BMRB estimates that the number of online bank account holders has doubled to 3m during the past twelve months.

Barclays Bank and Lloyds TSB hold the lion’s share of the internet banking market with 28% and 23% respectively, lagged by HSBC/First Direct, NatWest and Egg. Males aged under 44 comprise the fastest-growing segment of online account holders.

News source: Financial Times