Study: MMS revenues to soar by 2004

New picture-messaging, information and entertainment services over packet-switched mobile networks have the potential to become a multibillion dollar business in just over one year, provided mobile operators move quickly to offer cross-network services and offer affordable handsets, according to a study published on Tuesday by Juniper Research Ltd.

The Basingstoke, England, research group projects MMS (multimedia messaging service) revenue worldwide to exceed US$8.3 billion by 2004, it said in a statement.

The projection is based on operators moving quickly to implement MMS across their networks, making handsets easily affordable and rolling out prepaid service to attract the mass market, said Charles Lafage, senior analyst at Juniper.

Currently, most operators offer MMS only to customers within their own networks but plan soon to extend service to others, according to Lafage

Handset prices, he said, “must fall to around US$100 to attract the mass market, down from US$350 for high-end devices and US$250 for standard models.”

Prepaid service is also essential to drive mass-market sales, according to Lafage, but one that still faces some technical challenges. “It’s a billing issue,” he said. “Operators need to know in advance how big a data transfer will be and how much credit the customer has before they can process the request. This is tricky but the industry is working on solutions.”

Although picture-messaging revenue will account for US$2.7 billion of the total, revenue from information and entertainment services will claim the lion’s share, US$5.6 billion, of which around two-thirds will go to content providers.