Research Notes

MMS can celebrate its 1.5 year birthday – but the party is in South Korea!

In Europe a new mobile baby has been born, the name of the child has been chosen and there are great expectations and hopes for the future of this new baby. The name of the child? – Premium MMS services. But still unknown to many of the mobile players in the mobile sector, who are praying for the future success of this new child, this is not an only child. This child already has a big brother who is now 1.5 years old and lives in South Korea!

The South Korean mobile users were introduced to Premium MMS services in July 2001, when SKT launched its MMS services to its 2.5G users. Premium MMS in South Korea has already had its 1.5 year birthday and can speak and see in colour – as the the multimedia messages can include soundfiles, graphics, photos and video clips.

In a new report ” The Korean Market for Mobile Services – a window to 3G” Strand Consult focuses on the many mobile services available to the South Korean mobile users, services that together with the CDMA 1X platform running around 80 Kbps download speeds to the mobile phone, make the South Korean mobile market the most advanced in the world. The report analysis all the different types of mobile applications in South Korea – including premium MMS. Although the Korean MMS use a different standard than the European MMS, the basic result for the end user is the same.

The Korean MMS’s are based on a proprietary system developed by the South Korean company “Thin Multimedia”, who have developed an MMS player that is installed in mobile phones. The player can handle download speeds from 5 Kbps to 382 Kbps. Right now there are over 16 million South Koreans who have 2.5G mobile phones and as mentioned earlier, they are running download speeds of around 80 Kbps.

The most popular MMS service that the largest South Korean mobile operator – SKT – is offering is “Movie Previews”. The user can download trailers for the movies running in cinemas and choose which movie he or she would like to see. The MMS’s can be forwarded to friends and when everyone has agreed as to which movie they want to see, the tickets can be ordered – using the mobile phone.

Another big MMS service is “Animations” and “Music”. Animations are like a cartoon running on your mobile phone. These three MMS services account for around 84% of the MMS premium mobile services market in South Korea.

Unlike their European counterparts, the South Korean mobile operators have started out with a pricing strategy that is much lower than in Europe. We have already seen European prices just for a P2P MMS at 0.4 to 1.3 Euros. If you were to add a content fee to that price, you would probably have a hard time getting customers to buy premium MMS services.

The South Korean mobile operators have made sure that there was a lot of MMS content available in a wide range of different types of services and priced their premium MMS services at 0.1 to 0.5 Euros. Remember – this is for Premium MMS services, so we are looking at prices around 80% less than in Europe.

Although the South Korean MMS’s are a different technology, running at higher speed on a different mobile network, much of the experience that the South Korean mobile operators have gained and the lessons learnt from offering MMS services – together with many other types of services to 2.5G mobile users – in an walled garden environment , can be put to very good use indeed in Europe, speeding up the rollout and creation of new 2.5G mobile services.

The market players who hope to make money on European Premium MMS services would be wise to take a good look at what has been going on in South Korea for the past one and a half years. Pretty soon, the MMS big brother in South Korea will have two candles on its birthday cake – almost before It’s European little brother has seen daylight.
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