A new report on wireless data/content services from The PELORUS Group comes clearly at a seminal moment in the industry, marked by a cultural shift in the way the global population is communicating. At 193 million subscribers and counting in August of 2005, the wireless population in the United States should pass the 200 million mark by years-end. The wireless segment is unfolding as the leading edge frontier on the global communications front. And gathering silently but furiously beneath the surface of that front is a massively pent-up demand for wireless data services.
According to the new report from The PELORUS Group entitled "Wireless Data Services: Mobile Browsing And Internet Connectivity", while today's money rests in voice services, accounting for more than 90% of carriers' revenues, the segment has peaked. Wireless providers recognize that voice portfolios are saturated; the next sizable revenue opportunity will come from mobile data services. Already, leading wireless carriers have begun vying with each other to introduce a broad spectrum of multimedia content services. Concurrently, phone makers are rushing to tap into this emerging demand, transforming wireless devices into one-stop handsets able to deliver every type of content to one's fingertips.
Saroja Girishankar, Vice President of Information Services with The PELORUS Group and the report's author observes, "The mobile data services phenomenon can best be described as the extraordinary melding of Web and wireless technologies that brings vast online and digital content to cell phone users. And enabling mobile multimedia data services is a multi-faceted undertaking. It requires deploying third-generation cellular networks with broadband throughput to carry voice, text and video; it needs a plethora of cell phones to suit data and multimedia needs; and it calls for prolific mobile-fit content on the Web, and specialized multimedia content on individual provider portals, easily accessible to cell phones."
The study suggests carriers will increasingly offer mobile content and data services tailored for specific demographic groups. While the early focus has been on the younger population, PELORUS expects wireless carriers to create mobile content services aimed at professional, special interest, and other demographic groups. The goal is simple, but expansive. It is to give cell phone users a Web experience similar to the one available only to online computer users now.
There are, however, challenges to translating opportunities into tangible revenue streams. Some of the leading-edge content services are still in their first iterations and have yet to be finessed for mass appeal. Compounding that are convoluted pricing schemes for mobile data services. Indeed, pricing packages require subscribers to compile services from a matrix of content offerings. Frequently, users pay separate rates for connectivity, and for special content.
PELORUS believes that the three Es -- Ease, Efficiency, and Expense -- will determine when mobile data services, including mobile browsing, will find traction among subscribers. The 3Es also are the three over-riding factors involved in the successful launch and delivery of mobile browsing and data services.
Adds Girishankar, "Clearly, the next few years will see the result of the extensive mobilization of Web content per se. One of the current limitations relates to the fact that only a small portion of the worldwide Web content can be accessed from cell phones. However, top search engine companies, including Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft MSN as well as content providers are working towards making more Web content mobile-fit via standards-based technologies. All of them have recently introduced mobile services that enable cell phone users to query about restaurant sites, directions, product information to sports scores and news plus do comparison shopping from their embedded browsers. Personalized content with syndicated news feeds via browsers are examples of this new thrust."
The bottom line is mobile data content services and in particular, mobile browsing and Internet services via cell phones, is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity waiting to be farmed.