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The advertising industry will shortly reveal how it's going to bombard cellphone and PDA users with commercials

The Wireless Advertising Association convenes in downtown San Francisco on 26 June to unveil its technical infrastructure for beaming promotional material to handhelds and phones. The body has already produced metrics and definitions for adverts to GSM phones.

The WAA will extend this to encompass a technical and privacy framework for marketeers at the meet in ten days.

Phones are the last remaining communication medium not to be polluted with unsolicited advertising. But a burgeoning industry is arising to fill that gap, promising "targeted" advertising based on users' call histories. A good example is Add2Phone's SMASH server, which says it uses both "push" and "pull" technology monitoring and profiling to make the unwanted ads slightly less unwanted.

WAA also claims to take privacy seriously. However phone spam could rapidly become a serious nuisance even without the adoption of sophisticated profiling software and a privacy advisories from the self-regulating ad industry.

SMS spam is easy enough to do, from open web to SMS gateways, and IM services such as ICQ offering IM-to-SMS service.

And users share more than a bit of culpability. A UK-based SMS spammer recently boasted to us he'd got a 40 per cent response rate from a broadcast SMS spam. So if you don't want SMS to become a nuisance, don't reply to it.

Now one of the reasons we hear cited for the success of DoCoMo's iMode system in Japan is the ease with which it allows service providers to bill customers. The micro payment gets added to the user's monthly bill, the network takes a cut, and everyone's happy. These services tend to be advertised through conventional media, leaving the airwaves uncluttered.

The example of the US, where a continuous stream of television advertisements is briefly interrupted by "programs" for several seconds an hour, shows what can happen when customers relax an attitude of zero-tolerance. ®

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