Mobile search looks to be the topic du jour going into 3GSM next week because of a much ballyhooed article in the U.K.'s Telegraph. The anonymously sourced article unveiled a secret "plot" by some of Europe's mobile carriers (and Cingular) to band together and create their own mobile search engine. Nearly every major media outlet picked up the story, while carriers and search companies alike shook their heads.
Bill Gajda, chief marketing officer at the GSM Association, says that the GSMA has watched this search story develop and they think there's nothing to it. "There's no search initiative to my knowledge," Gajda said. "We have Yahoo and Google on the 3GSM agenda, but I'm not aware of any announcements from operators on search."
While the original Telegraph article makes no claim to announcements (just secret plotting), I tend to agree with Gajda's sentiment. Google has already tied up search agreements with a couple of the carriers mentioned (T-Mobile and Vodafone) and Yahoo already has agreements with some of them too (Hutchison's 3). Besides, if the carriers were to band together it would more likely be to throw their weight behind one lagging search company (like an InfoSpace) or boost up one of the start-ups (Medio or Jumptap) and use their collective 600 million subscriber base to squeeze that vendor for a better revenue share agreement.
If such a consortium does come to fruition, it will focus on mobile advertising, not search. An easy-to-use mobile search feature is certainly a necessary step for workable mobile user interfaces, but the advertising tie-in is what's really on the operators' minds. As one spokesman for the Vodafone Group said in response to the rumored meet-up: "There is a need to collaborate in the area of mobile advertising and create some common ground when it comes to things like ad pricing and delivery. Mobile advertising is a new development that will require some industry-wide conversations, and these could be on the agenda next week."
I suspect the rumor mill has gotten out of control yet again and the carriers are simply planning to discuss the white-hot topic of mobile advertising, if anything. So worry not, Google. You were worried, weren't you? -Brian