From Carriage to Content - The future of telcos

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Research group GFK surveyed just over 1000 users online this year about their mobile usage. While just under 90 percent used the phone for SMS, usage of other features was quite high. Just over 70 percent had used their phone to take photos with 45 percent taking advantage of the ability to send them. Around a quarter had used their phones to surf the Web, make videos, play games and MP3 files. Video calling made up 18 percent. Making videos 10 percent. Watching mobile TV was 7 percent.

But of course it’s not all fun and games.

This year’s 13th annual AIMIA awards fielded a sharp increase in entries from the financial services, property, agriculture and medical sectors.

“The entertainment side tends to be where all the innovation is driven and then business will follow,” Butterworth muses: “But I’m particularly impressed by people starting to move into really boring things, which means the whole community is starting to embrace the whole Internet content idea”.

Vaughan Bowen, managing director of listed carrier M2 Communications, says that in the US and the UK, non-carriers such as banks, utilities and supermarket chains are increasingly popping up as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

While yet to emerge here, he believes that the trend heralds a broad shift in the way in which businesses communicate with their customers. For instance, a bank might entice its customers to take a mobile plan with services such as free or low cost mobile banking.

“Banks with a three to four million customer base could be well served by having a badged mobile offering funded through one of their services,” Bowen says. “I see it as the next phase in how mobile marketing will be done and services offered.”
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Click to see GfK's take on mobile phone usage.

M2 is Optus’ exclusive mobile wholesale partner in Australia.

In a sure sign that mobile content is no longer just about voice and SMS, Hutchison recently became the first Australian carrier to report revenues for its newer mobile content.

“It’s one of those little signs that mobile content is taking off,” says AIMIA’s Butterworth. “They obviously think they’re onto something now.”

For the first 6 months of 2006, contribution to Hutchison’s average revenue per user (ARPU) of non-voice services including SMS multimedia content and high speed data access grew 19.8 percent from $16 in half year 2005 to $19.

The company said that while SMS revenue grew from $9 a year ago to $11, 3G ARPU from other non-voice services, including multimedia content, video calling and high speed data access rose from $7 to $8. Helping to drive this, has been the large numbers of Hutchison’s Orange customers upgrading to its 3 brand.

The first 3G provider in Australia, 3 introduced a number of new content services this year including Mobile TV from Big Brother, SBS, BBC and CNN, video highlights from the World Cup soccer as well as channels from MTV, E! Entertainment, The Cartoon Network, Rage, Sky Racing and ABC Kids. The company also reports growing popularity for its mobile news, entertainment, sport an weather portal Planet 3, with 76 percent of customers accessing the service with 57 percent having a billable event.

3 reports strong uptake of its Cricket updates and live video streaming with 380,000 ‘mobile Ashes Series Moments’ accessed.

AIMIA published the second edition of its Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index in May this year, titled The Impact of 3G. It asked nearly 4,000 people between the ages of 9 and 70 about their mobile phone habits.

Almost all participants said that they spent on SMS, with 20 percent spending on MMS, six percent on email and three percent for video. Around 12 percent said that they had used their phone to buy content although very few respondents had this as a significant proportion of their overall bill.
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