Creating Success in MMS

Aram Krol, Product Marketing Manager, Acision

Five years ago we all looked in awe as the first camera phones rolled off the production lines at Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Following a succession of fast-paced improvements in colour screen technologies, these devices seemed to hold entire business strategies in their power. They would be single-handedly responsible for hockey stick upward curves in data traffic revenues, changing the way consumers interact with their handsets. Not only would they put traditional camera makers out of business but users would inevitably all send each other all of their exciting holiday snaps, thereby driving data traffic through the roof…OK, so we now know that despite the popularity of camera phones MMS has not taken off as expected or as hoped, but it may not be such an impossible dream.

In the half-decade that has followed, there have been successes. MMS capable handsets are now the norm, and in subsidised markets contract periods have increased to 18 or even 24 months to ensure that these increasingly plush devices are paying for themselves. Improved camera resolutions have driven up usage of the camera phones themselves, and high-end camera phones have replaced the digital camera in many consumers’ pockets. Music has established itself as the ultimate mobile consumable, which has directly resulted in increased downloading, and service quality and interoperability now provide a user experience in line with promises. All this now puts operators in a perfect position to tackle the most important of the multimedia challenges – drive MMS usage to deliver mobile data revenues.

In order for MMS to be a success, what is needed is not only penetration of MMS capable phones, but a critical mass of active MMS users, and this can be achieved through two simple steps. Firstly, operators need to make it simple to configure phones for MMS either through pre-configuration or configuration over the air. Secondly, they need to motivate customers to use MMS. Most operators have bridged the gap on the former, but need to be more active in this latter area.

One way to motivate use of MMS is to introduce MMS-based operator services that can demonstrate its value and make it part of people's daily life: services such as voicemail delivery over MMS, prepaid notifications over MMS, etc...

Beyond MMS-based services, the mobile internet is the perfect catalyst for MMS to produce revenues. “Web 2.0” is a label that is overused, but essentially it encompasses all things interactive on the internet. A place that used to be akin to a library or a resource of information, the internet has become an international café, with photos, chat and videos bouncing off the walls. In this brave new world interaction is key which is rather tempting if you are an operator looking for data revenues - after all, information tends to flow one way, interaction is two-way.

Coinciding with major steps forward in the mobile internet field (in speeds, usability and attitudes), the boost to internet traffic from Web 2.0 sites is certainly whetting a few appetites. Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Flickr all have loyal communities (some might say addicts!) that are easy targets for mobile internet services. However, in order to mobilise the full community experience of these sites, the ability to upload multimedia files is crucial. Video blogging, photo blogging, or audio file sharing all need MMS to function within the mobile environment. Indeed mobile internet infrastructure deals increasingly include Multimedia Messaging Service Centre (MMSC) upgrades to ensure that operators are ready to offer such interactivity as soon as a mobile internet service launches.

MMS is, and always has been, about more than just picture messaging. Narrow perceptions about the functionality and potential applications of MMS have doubtless contributed to its relatively slow rise to popularity. However the curtain has certainly not yet fallen on multimedia messaging – and with new applications presenting themselves regularly, it may soon be time for MMS to take centre stage.


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