Optical/IP Networks

MEM Sizzles on the Riviera

MONTE CARLO, France -- Mobile Entertainment Market 2007 -- It's a wrap. The Mobile Entertainment Forum 's annual get together has come and gone again. For those of you who couldn't make it to the Cote d'Azur, here's a quick take on the goings-on.

When attendees weren't pining for the sunshine outside on the French Riviera, they debated revenue share and advertising models, bypassing mobile operator portals with direct-to-consumer plays, whether mobile operators will become "dumb pipes" or "smart pipes," and whether the mobile Internet should replicate the fixed Internet.

"The easy money is over and now we have work to do to make the mobile entertainment experience easy, reliable, and fun," said Andrew Bud, vice chairman of the MEF and executive chairman of complink 3312|mBlox Inc.}. "Whatever the mobile Internet is going to be, it's not going to be just the Internet on mobile. The sheer scale of the mobile industry gives us the obligation to make up the mobile Internet."

This year will mark an inflection point for the mobile Internet, according to some delegates, mainly because mobile operators are starting to offer all-you-can-eat, flat-rate data packages and getting away from the "walled garden" approach to content.

While these moves by mobile operators are encouraging, the MEF issued a stark reality check and a new initiative for improving the user experience. A recent MEF survey of 3,000 mobile entertainment users in the U.K. and U.S. finds that just 26 percent are satisfied with the experience. The survey finds, generally, that service reliability is low and users are put off by hidden costs. (See MEF Tackles Users and Bazalgette's Mobile Dis-Content.)

That's the big picture. Here's a glimpse of the action from the show floor:

  • Acision, formerly known as the telecom and product division of LogicaCMG plc (London/Amsterdam: LOG), showed off its new brand for the first time at MEM. It also launched a suite of products that brings instant messaging functionality to SMS. (See LogicaCMG Offers Intuitive Texting and LogicaCMG Sells Unit .)

  • Bango.net Ltd. issued new statistics indicating that mobile Web usage in the U.S. has increased three-fold over the last year. The top five countries accessing the mobile Web via Bango as of April were the U.K., the U.S., South Africa, India, and Indonesia.

  • Research firm GfK AG now measures how much users spend on mobile content in Europe. In the U.K., the consumer spend on mobile content (non-voice and SMS activity) will reach £1 billion ($2 billion) this year. Games are the biggest mobile entertainment segment. U.K. consumers spent £83 million ($164 million) on mobile games, compared to £76 million ($150 million) on ringtones and £23 million ($45 million) on music, in the year to March 2007.

  • inLive Interactive Ltd. is responsible for the technology behind call-in TV quiz and game shows. Now, the company has a platform for broadcasters and fixed and mobile operators to offer real-time interactive video channels over any media, including TV, IPTV, and mobile TV. Vodacom Pty. Ltd. in South Africa is using inLive's platform and will soon launch a service for TV shows to increase traffic on their network.

  • JumpTap, which has a mobile search engine and advertising platform, says that a white label search engine is the only way to go to avoid inevitable conflicts between the big brand search engine players and mobile operators.

    "If a mobile operator works with MSN or Google, it will be in competition sooner or later with that constellation," says Kurt Hornburg, vice president of business development at JumpTap. The company was founded in 2004 and has nine operator customers, including Cingular, Alltel, Bell Canada, and Rogers Wireless. Hornburg says JumpTap will soon announce a European customer.

  • Omnifone launched a subscription-based mobile music service called MusicStation at the 3GSM show in February. Here in Monte Carlo, it won the MEF's best music service award. Operators install the service onto their handsets, which allows them to keep the direct relationship with the customer, and Omnifone shares the revenue with operators from the subscriptions. The service costs £1.99 ($4) per week in the U.K. or €2.99 ($4) per week in Europe.

  • ShoZu will release an updated version of its mobile music channel software that will include new features such as an advertising framework. The client software can be pre-installed on handsets. It won the MEF's best handset application award. But the company also learned its mobile service provider partner in the U.S., Amp'd Mobile Inc. , filed for bankruptcy.

  • SpinVox Ltd. announced Cincinnati Bell Inc. (NYSE: CBB) as its first carrier customer. The operator will offer a service that converts voice messages into text and sends them to subscribers' mobile phones, starting from $4.99 per month. SaskTel and Vodacom Pty. Ltd. will also deploy SpinVox this year. The company has less than 1 million users and expects that figure to grow to 6 million by the end of the year.

  • WeDo Soft showcased its iDeal data partner management system. The software company manages telecom operators' partnerships with content providers through revenue share processing and quality of service monitoring.

    — Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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