The mobile business industry panel tackles topical issues
QUESTIONS and answers
Why don’t more 3G subscribers use more of the 3G services they have available to them?
As more people get 3G handsets when upgrading, more users will come on line for these new services, there are already 55 million WCDMA 3G subscribers globally (end March 2006).
Furthermore we have still to see the impact of many new services (such as location-based applications) which are yet to come online .
King, WIN: Something that the mobile industry as a whole has often been guilty of is assuming that consumers care about technologies such as WAP, GPRS, 3G etc.
In my experience, the majority of UK consumers only care about the services that they can participate in.
For example, WAP page impressions increased dramatically in 2004-2005 as the market for polyphonic ringtones and other personalised content boomed – but how many of those consumers cared (or even knew) that WAP was the technology enabling the downloads? It’s about what it delivers, not the technology that delivers it.
The mobile industry now has to concentrate less on technology and more on content and service offerings. I don’t recall too many predictions that user generated video services such as SeeMeTV would drive 3G usage. The talk was all of 3G football highlights, full music track downloads etc.
What services such as SeeMeTv should teach us is that what is popular on other technologies won’t necessarily be the most successful services for mobile – it is a channel in its own right, with unique characteristics and different usage patterns.
Once those services are in place the operators and service providers must then focus on allowing consumers to find services more easily (through search functionality and better listings – look at Google/MSN and Amazon/Play.com) and encouraging innovative offerings that drive word-of-mouth recommendations between consumers (mobile is the perfect channel for viral marketing).
Heeran, Valista: Existing 3G consumer offerings were, until recently, priced too high to gain widespread consumer adoption. This, combined with the fact that awareness amongst consumers about the services still remains relatively low, has meant that many 3G subscribers are simply not using the services available to them.
In addition, because many of the services are still on-portal, the technology and infrastructure required to offer compelling 3G services is still at an early stage. This is further compounded by current pricing models: At the moment, third parties are unable to charge consumers effectively. Instead of being billed one, single cost for the content and download, consumers are charged separately and this has discouraged the uptake of many 3G services.
Recent launches of Mobile TV services, combined with moves by the operators to offer zero rated data charges for certain off-portal services, should help broaden the appeal to a wider number of consumers. However, the popularity of 3G services will only really take off once unified all-in-one pricing and sensible data tariffs for third-party services become the norm.
Director, Sales & Marketing, Elite Mobile
CMO, Airwide Solutions
Head of Communications,
Marketing Manager, WIN (Wireless Information Network)
There’s a view that the future of the mobile phone lies in becoming a user-friendly multimedia device with all the technology options of a PC. Will such configurations be the mainstream in developed markets? Or will there always be a mass market for basic voice-and-text phones?
At one end, there are simple phones designed for specific groups. Those targeted at young children, for example, offer parent-programmable speed dial and emergency buttons. They are also GPS-enabled, enabling parents to track their children when they leave school with some even allowing parents to track how fast their children are driving! I think these tracking capabilities will soon be applied to business applications.
At the other end of the spectrum, phones will become more intelligent and programmable, more akin to the experience users currently enjoy on their PC. We will soon see phones exceeding 1GB of active memory with 5GB of storage and numerous applications. The ‘phone’ will become a converged device with phones, cameras, music/video players, personal organisers and even wallets all on one device. The challenge will be to ensure that these new capabilities are developed without compromising the existing core functions of voice and text.
King, WIN: I have had MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint on my mobile phone for over two years. I could count on one hand the number of times I have used them.
The old mobile faux pas is rearing its ugly head ahead – technology for technology’s sake rather than technology for consumer’s sake.
The trend of delivering themed phones to suit different user bases will only continue. It’s horses for courses until such a time as memory size, battery life and handset size problems allow all software to be supported on all phones. So let’s put our marketing hats back on, segment our audiences and target them with different propositions that appeal to their demographic.
Heeran, Valista: I think over the next couple of years the market for basic voice and text phones will disappear.
Like any technology, people will use only what they need to so manufacturers will simply not consider it viable to maintain production lines for these devices within developed markets, such as the UK and US.
The key is in usability: if the multimedia features do not impede basic access to voice and text features then multimedia devices will be of no consequence to those who only want to access basic services.
However, considering how quickly mobile phone features advance, it is clear that much work still needs to be done to keep the devices both usable and compact. Trials have shown that the small form factor is critical to European markets and mobile phone manufacturers will have to ensure that they bear this in mind when designing future models.
In addition, advances in battery technology are still needed to ensure that additional, advanced multimedia facilities are not developed to the detriment of the phone’s core features.
Nash, Elite Mobile: Lifestyle requirements and sheer convenience dictate that voice and text will always remain the dominant features of the mobile phone.
The challenge to all of us is to promote the benefits of its many other options.
In other words, in the same way that the consumer takes for granted the advantages of voice and text on the move, we need to instill a sense of how the other facilities bring similar benefits to the customer’s lifestyle requirements.
As 3G moves to become the dominant technology, users will increasingly see its many facilities as being integral to their lives and so make more use of them. This in turn will be a significant catalyst for stimulating the handset replacement market, by allowing customers to take advantage of this continually evolving technology.
At the other end of the scale, there will always be those who want nothing more than voice and text. They will remain a lucrative and essential part of the market and we neglect them at our peril.
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