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3GSM – Executives: mobile content not here yet

Feb 14, 20063 mins
Network SecuritySmartphones

Mobile phone users can expect to be able to access a growing variety of content from their phones, CEOs said Tuesday morning at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. But the current mobile market they described suggests that mobile phone users probably won’t be downloading significant amounts of content any time soon.

Network speeds are being quickly boosted, the executives said. In Barcelona, Telefonica Moviles SA has deployed a High-Speed Downlink Packet Access network that is being tried by users, said CEO and Chairman Antonio Viana-Baptista. However, in Europe the fastest commercially available networks are Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems networks, and the executives admit those are lacking.

“Today the experience is OK, it’s not great, for downloading,” said Arun Sarin, CEO for Vodafone Group PLC.

The executives also said that pricing for the current services isn’t exactly what users want. Mobile data prices are higher than many customers would like but over time costs will decline, Sarin said. As the operators evolve their networks into those based on IP , they will increasingly offer bundled pricing packages that include large amounts of data downloads, he said.

But in some parts of the world, mobile users are downloading content. Wang Jianzhou, chairman and CEO of China Mobile, surprised the audience by revealing that the total revenue from mobile music in China is larger than the total revenue of the traditional music industry. Where 1 million copies of a CD might sell in China in six months, 15 million copies of a single song were recently bought by mobile phone users over the same period, he said.

That success seems an anomaly. In other regions, operators are struggling to support providers that want to deliver content to mobile users. For example, media companies are telling operators that they’re used to delivering content to a standard television format, Sarin said. That’s a different prospect than delivering programming to mobile phones, which come in a very wide variety of sizes and capabilities, he said. Operators and content providers are working on how to make that process easier, he said.

Nokia expects the demand for mobile music to grow in the short term. In 2006, the company expects to sell 80 million music-enabled phones in 2006, said President and and COO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

Sarin and other executives reiterated the point that operators aren’t interested in buying big media companies to produce content. “We are in the packaging business,” he said. “The skills needed for the content business are different than what we have.”

Wang agreed. “We will not do our own content,” he said.


Nancy Gohring is a freelance journalist who started writing about mobile phones just in time to cover the transition to digital. She's written about PCs from Hanover, cellular networks from Singapore, wireless standards from Cyprus, cloud computing from Seattle and just about any technology subject you can think of from Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Computerworld, Wired, the Seattle Times and other well-respected publications.

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