As the current year draws to a close all eyes are on the new opportunities and trends that will dominate the news in 2007. For mobile operators the challenge is still to drive additional revenues from value added services, whilst maintaining revenues from traditional voice and messaging services.
If operators only learn one thing from 2006 it is that they cannot afford to loose sight of their revenue base in voice minutes and text messaging. Content services uptake on the whole is still disappointing from a mass market perspective, but does exhibit small pockets of increased ARPU and usage from niche segments of the market. Divide and conquer is a good mantra and operators will need to further drive their segmentation models to ensure continued success. In terms of content services 2006 presented a mixed bag.
The breakout from the walled garden gathered momentum and major search and content brands arrived on the mobile device. Tariffs were revised and bundled with an increasing emphasis on families or groups and with home zone or at home tariffs to increase fixed to mobile substitution. For mobile operators next year will present a number of challenges.
Mobile TV services are expected to be at the forefront of operators' content plans, but already face many challenges. A range of competing technical solutions, differing spectrum requirements and confusing predictions over customer acceptance all serve to cloud the business plan.
Original trials have been hailed as successes but mass market uptake is less certain. However Mobile TV will become an operator must have service, but operators need to moderate their expectations.
Content partnerships are critical and the right mix of channels delivered to the right market segments is perhaps more important than an early launch of elegant technical solutions. For the consumer Mobile TV is still a very individual experience and more channels do not always equate to a better service. Although mobile TV pundits point to the success of video during the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany, this is really a one off event and unlikely to fuel widespread adoption of Mobile TV services.
User-generated content and social networking, as defined by the likes of YouTube, MySpace and FriendsUnited.com, using the mobile device will perhaps prove more successful in the short term. These services are cheap to run, with few digital rights issues to address and potentially viral up-take. 3UK's 'See Me TV' offers an interesting case study, with 12 million downloads since its October 2005 launch, making it one of the most popular video download services in Europe and a flagship for the cause of allowing users to generate and distribute their own material.
Allied with TV services in the mind of the consumer is commercial advertising and 2007 will see the advent of these services on a mobile device. Whilst the concept of advertising paying for services has been around for sometime, its use to fund mobile services or offer rebates on services is new. Vodafone has recently announced a strategic alliance with Yahoo! to display mobile advertising on mobile phones within the UK.
Blyk also announced its intention to launch as a pan-European MVNO service offering free voice and text as part of an advertising-funded service. Opinion as to the acceptability of these services to consumers is divided, however user experience is certainly a key factor as well as the ability to target the advertising to ensure that it adds value for the individual user.
Rivals are awaiting the launch of these new services with increased interest and if the format and targeting are correct then mobile advertising offers a potential additional revenue or subsidy stream in the consumer market.
Whilst not a panacea for increasing mobile usage, the mobile handset as a personal trusted device offers enormous opportunities for targeting personal advertising or content. If operators can win over consumers to this idea, it could change the dynamics of the consumer market.