THE MOBILE CONTENT MARKET: Drivers, trends and technologies
What is mobile content?
Mobile content can be defined as any content that can be delivered to and viewed via a wireless, handheld device.
This Focus Report looks at the challenges faced by potential mobile content providers in terms of delivery platforms, technology, charging and business models.
The mobile market
Once the preserve of the yuppie, the mobile phone has become a near-ubiquitous tool of twenty-first century life, with more than 1.8 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. That figure is set to reach 2.14 billion by the end of 2005, according to research released in May 2005 by Informa Telecoms & Media. According to a 2005 study by technology services provider LogicaCMG, the worldwide mobile content industry will be worth $9 billion by mid-2006. Currently, the UK mobile content market is worth UKP500 million.
Mobile content: distribution methods and usability issues
The first shift towards text-based content rather than voice traffic on mobile devices was taken in December 1992 when the first SMS was sent from a PC to a mobile phone on the Vodafone GSM network. SMS now accounts for 60-80% of ARPU (average revenue per user) derived from data. After SMS, the next step in the growth of non-voice traffic was the migration of the internet on to mobile devices, with the development of WAP and i-mode.
Data services are where mobile operators expect to see the greatest revenue growth in coming years but there are still a number of usability issues around the use of content on mobile phones. These issues include problems relating to screen size and resolution, connectivity, difficulty of data entry and battery life.
Business and payment models for mobile content
A number of business models for the delivery of mobile content have been tested over the past five years. The two most familiar are subscription and pay-as-you-go. With screen space and file size at a premium, the advertising-based model so popular on the internet is difficult to pursue on mobile devices.
In all cases, the prime concern is to provide payment models that are accessible and easy to use. Clearly standard payment models cannot work on mobile; customers are unlikely to want to provide complicated information such as credit card details via mobile given the difficulty of entering that information on a standard mobile keypad. As a result, a variety of payment models have been used to circumnavigate the problem, including micro payments and pre-pay cards.
Technology developments: taking the brakes off mobile publishing?
The mobile industry is in a constant state of flux, with innovation appearing in the news and on our phones daily. Areas that are the focus of development activity include attempts to improve the experience of reading from a mobile phone screen, with rollout displays and e-paper being two key areas of innovation. Connectivity is also improving, as users begin to take up the faster speeds offered by 3G, and as 4G is developed. These developments are bringing further improvements in the experience of accessing content via mobile phones, and hence greater opportunities for content providers who wish to exploit this channel to market.