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Multimedia obstacles

Multimedia is no novelty. It has been around for a few years now. While that is true, operators are still scratching their heads, trying to find the best way to encourage subscribers to use multimedia more and to squeeze more cash from the technology.

According to a survey sponsored by 3ple Media, operators are pessimistic about their future in the multimedia ecosystem, lacking confidence that they will be more than just "bit pipe" players for mobile broadband ISPs. The survey was completed by 106 operators and 1,090 mobile subscribers in the Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions. APAC accounted for just over 50% of the results.

As many as 86% of operators think becoming bit pipe players is highly or quite likely in the next few years. The pessimism is quite pronounced in Asia Pacific, where 35% of operators believe this path to be either a certainty or highly likely. Only 14% of operators in this region see the bit pipe future as unlikely.

But 3ple Media CCO StJohn Deakins assuaged these bit pipe fears, saying the results of this survey clearly show that operators have what it takes to be in the middle of all the mobile multimedia action.

"There's currently a debate within operators between resigning to a fate as mobile IP connectivity provider, or taking a more ambitious and rewarding path to become the mobile multimedia service provider of choice," he says.

"This survey confirms that mobile operators are front runners in the ongoing race to be at the heart of the new mobile multimedia ecosystem. However, there are still technological, educational and behavioural hurdles to be crossed if operators are to translate their current advantage into a win," he adds.

The survey shows that operators need to be more aware of the other challenges that they face in their bid to become the main player in the mobile multimedia space.

The findings show that 27% of subscribers simply do not know what services are available to them. And even if they do know what services they can use, about 32% believe multimedia offerings will make too much of a dent on their wallets.

Operators clearly understand this, with 88% seeing subscribers' perceived cost of using data services as the biggest obstacle to boosting uptake of multimedia services. This was followed closely by a lack of multimedia education among subscribers, with 86% of operators saying this was a major or occasional impediment. Handset configuration issues were their third biggest hindrance (84%). Other key obstacles were a lack of compelling content (77%), the anticipated investment costs to expand to all subscribers (70%) and capacity limitations (65%). Looking at the types of content that will drive multimedia revenue, operators expect banking and financial services, sports info and music to have the biggest potential.

As to who in the value chain will benefit most from new multimedia services, 54% of operators see themselves as the key benefactor in the short term, but by 2010 only 29% hold the same view. While operators expect direct brands and media content providers to reap the same level of benefit over the next three years, they feel mobile ad agencies and advertisers will pick up the majority of the benefit lost by operators.

Survey results show that 68% of operators see basic knowledge of customer demographics as essential to making multimedia work. It's no surprise that 71% of them believe proper behavioural profiling is a requirement. Personalization seems to be moving up the operator priority ladder, as consumers become more hooked on the concept of individualism.

Operators have now become more aware of how important it is to know their subscribers - to know how they behave and to know exactly what they want from their mobile operators in terms of multimedia offerings.

But the move to use this type of knowledge may not sit too well with mobile subscribers, raising the issue of privacy. Almost half of the subscribers polled expressed an accepting, even positive, attitude about behavioural targeting. On the flipside, 29% feel very concerned that their privacy has been compromised.

In Asia Pacific, the issue of privacy is more pronounced, with 50% of subscribers believing that their privacy has been compromised by operators using their behavioural data to enhance multimedia and other offerings.

Based on these results, gaining subscriber trust seems to be a significant hurdle for operators to overcome, if they ever wish to end up at the heart of the multimedia ecosystem and cash in on what the technology has to offer.

As far as operators are concerned, subscribers generally trust them, with 64% believing that subscribers generally view them as a trusted brand.

"Operators have some of the most well recognized and trusted brands in the countries in which they operate. This, combined with their gatekeeper status for services and the personalized billing and preferences relationship they have with customers, means operators are in an unrivalled position as we move into the new mobile multimedia service environment," Deakins says.

However, despite this, operators know that they need to continually earn their subscribers' trust. According to the survey, 56% of mobile subscribers rate their trust in mobile operators as average or high. In the Asia Pacific, the proportion of subscribers giving a high trust rating is 29%.

©By Abigail Ho Source: www.americasnetwork.com

2003, MovieToolBox