Research Notes

GPRS has so far been a bigger flop than WAP – but nobody knows!

WAP was oversold. Nobody disagrees with that. And of course, nobody in their right mind would like to make the same mistake twice, and expect to keep their job the second time around!
Having agreed that WAP was hyped up more than when the USA put the first man on the moon – the difference being that the USA actually did put a man on the moon and WAP actually wasn’t really “The Mobile Internet”, how are the mobile operators handling the marketing of GPRS today?

Before we answer that, lets just recap why GPRS is fundamental to the future existence of the mobile operators. GPRS gives the mobile user the advantage of being always online at higher speeds, but only actually paying for the data transmitted and received – not how long it took or how long the user was online. So although WAP and GPRS are two different things, the user experience of WAP and the newer emerging technologies like MMS and Java, will be a whole different ballgame on GPRS and run fast, smoothly and efficiently and of course – only at the cost of the actual data size, not the time you spend online.

It is important to understand, that teaching the mobile users the many benefits of the two abovementioned main features of GPRS, is what will make users want to buy a GPRS enabled terminal – and later on 3G – mobile phones. Not so much by selling the two features or GPRS in itself, but by the new types of mobile services that the users will be able to enjoy with GPRS. Thereby letting operators get on with making money as fast as possible to reimburse the huge investments, they are spending on 3G (UMTS) licenses and infrastructure.

What are the marketing lessons learned from WAP? Not to oversell? Yes, but that is only one of the lessons. Another is that teaching mobile users how to spell WAP is not necessarily going to make WAP a huge success. The biggest lesson has been, that the actual services available on WAP were quite few (mainly due to the total lack of revenue sharing models on offer from the operators), not very innovative and difficult to market.. Add to that the disappointment about the user interface and speed of WAP and it is little wonder that WAP failed.

So back to GPRS – how is the marketing of GPRS and the new GPRS enabled phones going, almost a year down the road since the first operators launched their GPRS offerings and many terminal manufactures now have GPRS enabled mobile phones on the market?

Well… suppose that the operators had learned their lessons from WAP, they would be advertising all the great mobile services – yes also WAP services – that are available on GPRS – how well, smoothly and fast they work and how much time the mobile user can save or how well the user can be entertained or informed by these new services.

On the other hand, suppose they had not learned anything from WAP, they would be running the same campaign as for WAP, just replacing the letters WAP with GPRS and calling GPRS the key to “The Mobile Internet” with a caption underneath “Now WAP works”!.

And which did they choose? Apparently neither! The marketing of GPRS has been almost non-existent to the extent that most mobile phone owners today, have actually no idea whether they should buy a GPRS telephone or what to use it for. Some recent newspaper ads for new GPRS enabled mobile phones do not actually even mention that the phone is a GPRS phone!

The latest report from Strand Consult “How to make money on mobile services” a picture of the current & future Market for Mobile Services in Europe shows that in 2005, non-voice ARPU (average revenue pr. user) will account for 32% of the mobile operators earnings and have a total value of Euro 23 billion. Of that, under 2 billion will come SMS based mobile services and the rest from new technologies based on MMS/WAP and JAVA! The report takes into account the mobile operators unwillingness to move forward on GPRS and those services that will function much more optimally on a GPRS platform and goes through in detail, all the prerequisites from all the players in the mobile marketplace that need to be in place, before the mobile services market really can take off.

Compared to the marketing of WAP, GPRS has so far been the biggest failure in mobile history. At least everybody knew what WAP was – even if it couldn’t deliver on it’s promise!
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