It is interesting to see how the operators are approaching opening the mobile web.
T-Mobile started the ball rolling with web'n'walk way back in late 2005 and really did not get the credit it deserved. It was the first all you can eat bundle for open mobile data and for early adopters it was nirvana. Unfortunately, by trying to put a destination site in as the home page, the message became blurred and users were presented with an operator portal under another name as the home page. Really a case of a missed opportunity. T-Mobile was a case of having honourable intentions and open technology but poor promotional execution.
Vodafone by contrast has just launched its (nearly) unlimited web surfing package* with a (mangled) ability to view internet pages, but has done so with an impeccable marketing campaign that shows that from a marketing perspective the operator appears to 'get it'. The technology bugbears I hope are just that, rather than, as I suspect, really an attempt to put and keep Vodafone at the centre of the advertising value chain albeit at the expense of user experience.
T-Mobile had the best proposition but could not get the message across; Vodafone has the communication down but has compromised user experience at many levels.
On the sidelines with a much smaller user base is Three; definitely the people's champion. As good as T-Mobile but with the ability to communicate why people will use the unlimited bundles, rather than just to view what is in their portal. Thus Three, through its X-Series, highlight all of the cool apps and services that you may desire before they plug their own content. A mature view and one that all operators need to adopt if they have any reasonable expectations that they will retain part of the audience attention.
In three years I would guess that only one or two operators will retain any kind of audience in their own portals. The others will be abandoned and these operators will function as a kind of boosted ISP.
* read all exceptions at www.vodafone.com