October 30, 2009

Commentary : Mobile Net 'heading for data jam' ?

News out of the UK – Mobile internet is becoming increasingly popular but should we expect repercussions?

Whether we want to be the first with the new Cheryl Cole ringtone or the new Fifa game, we all love to download things to our mobile phones. However, is our urge to download set to cause mobile operators a massive headache?

According to the BBC, mobile data traffic is on the up (indeed experts at Informa are predicting a 25 fold increase by 2012) but this could create problems for mobile operators as the sharp rise in data downloads is not being matched by a similar increase in revenues. Without the revenues, operators cannot afford to upgrade the mobile networks and serious data traffic jams will form leaving consumers unable to download items to their mobile phones.

Recent survey findings by MEF indicate that premium, paid-for content tops the list of mobile search terms, but if usability and measurement issues are not resolved by operators swiftly, this revenue opportunity will soon be jeopardized.

One route which mobile networks are turning towards in an effort to prevent data traffic jams are optimisation schemes which shrink the size of the files that people download. This is a good start but more alternatives are needed if mobile operators are going to stand the test of the increasing traffic and start making profit and make the necessary improvements to the networks.

The dilemma seems to be that having rejected the role of 'dumb pipe' operators are struggling in their role as 'smart pipe' and are yet to transform their unique strengths (customer insights, location aware networks and brand power) into value adds for their content partners or users. These need to be deployed and turned into services users are willing to pay for.