Research Notes

WAP could jeopardise MMS – before MMS even gets going!

Following the dismal flop that WAP turned out to be when introduced in the late 90’s, WAP now stands a good chance of turning the predicated success of MMS into an even bigger failure!



·most people never worked out how to configure their WAP mobile phones
·WAP will be the platform that handles the transport of MMS
·MMS mobile phones still need to be configured to use WAP

People in the mobile sector are grinning amongst themselves today, when they talk about how WAP will finally have the success they had hoped for when WAP was first launched in the late 90’s. But this time, the success will come without having to promote WAP itself. Simply put, it will be the WAP platform that will be handling and transporting the MMS messages, that will start complementing and replacing SMS based services. The mobile operators are hoping that MMS will help boost their revenue for mobile services to a staggering Euro 23 billion by 2005 according to the latest report from Strand Consult “How to make money on mobile services” and send customers rushing in to the shops to buy MMS enabled mobile phones.

But this gives the mobile user a new challenge – a challenge that the operators have yet to solve. The problem of how to configure your WAP enabled mobile telephone, so you can start sending and receiving MMS messages. Many mobile phone users have a WAP enabled phone today, but have never even tried to configure it for WAP. The few who did configure their phones, found it a complicated and tedious process and got little or no help from the dealers and mobile operators call centres.

The interest for MMS is will be a lot higher. Mobile users already know about SMS, understand how it works and often use it daily. So the jump to adding a picture, sound file or other multimedia content to an instant message is not very big. But if they want to send anything from their mobile phone they need to configure it for WAP!

As most users will need to switch to a new MMS enabled terminal, to send and receive MMS’s, the mobile operators should be by now aware that the new MMS mobile phones that are hitting the market ought to be pre-configured with WAP and ready to use from the day the customer walks out of the shop. Otherwise the operators can from the beginning exclude the 95% or so mobile customers who have no idea or ability to understand how to WAP enable their phone.

This sounds so logical that it can hardly be a problem and must be something that the operators know exactly how to handle. But they didn’t handle it when the original WAP phones came on the market – one more reason for the dismal failure of WAP!

Have the mobile operators learnt their lesson this time? So far there is no indication that they have learned anything! They haven’t handled it with GPRS – most of the earlier adopters of GPRS have already tried – and given up – on getting GPRS configured! One of the reasons – together with the almost non-existent marketing – for the slow uptake of GPRS!

Can this problem be solved? Of course it can. In Sweden, mobile operators have agreed to pay dealers an extra bonus on top of their commision pr. sold new mobile phone, if the dealer preconfigures the mobile phone for WAP and GPRS, before the customer leaves the shop! While that sounds like one right way of solving the problem, operators are still not getting the picture, as in Sweden, there is no other special incentive for dealers to sell MMS enabled phones – so most of the phones sold in Sweden are still 2.0G phones on 12 or 18 month subscription contracts. Not exactly the best way of kick-starting a 2.5G market.

Right now, none of the first MMS enabled phones that have recently been launched in Europe are pre-configured for WAP or GPRS (Except the few sold in Sweden through dealers) As this is one of the prerequisites for expanding the mobile services market, together with many others explained in detail in Strand Consult’s new report “How to make money on mobile services” – a picture of the current & future Market for Mobile Services in Europe, the mobile operators are in for a shock – a shock they cannot afford – unless they get their act together and start learning from previous mistakes.
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