Standards needed to spur development

Umar Akram, Mobile Weaver ApS
05 Sep 2007

The revenue generated from voice is clearly diminishing with every passing day, forcing operators to explore new areas of growth through continual innovation in technologies and services.

I recently had an opportunity to attend a Vodafone D2C strategy briefing that outlined Vodafone's initiatives for the next three years. During this briefing Vodafone significantly highlighted the fact that despite the anticipated consolidation by European operators, the operators should focus on services other than the traditional voice-based services so that they can generate greater revenue.

In the fast-moving competitive market of Europe, operators are not only facing the challenge of competing with low-cost MVNOs but are also continuously struggling to retain their existing subscribers. With only a few exceptions, most operators in Asia and other developing countries have not been able to implement a long-term data services strategy, resulting in a mobile play that is still primarily focused on voice.

As ARPU on voice continues to decrease, data has become the most dominant factor for operators in retaining and attracting customers. The key factors that have complemented the growth of data services in developed countries are the increasing capabilities of mobile phones, faster networks like 3G and mobile applications that bring a rich user experience by changing the way people live, work and play.

With these changing trends, operators now expect their revenues to grow as the subscriber's appetite for content has increased. They are on the look out for a 'killer application' that can easily become popular among subscribers and thus create brand loyalty for them. But from the mobile content developer's perspective, it's not a simple task to come up with such an application.

The major challenge highlighted at the Google's Open Source discussion event was the absence of standards for the developers in the industry. Optimizing these applications for different OS and a broad range of mobile devices with varying screen sizes and versions remains the biggest problem for the mobile content developers.

Even if the portability issues are resolved, distribution still remains a big challenge for the developers. It is the dream of every mobile content developer to get their content distributed through an operator. But the endless list of prerequisites on various issues of portability, certification and in some cases localization can turn this dream into a complete nightmare.
The explosive growth in mobile content has made the topic a buzzword in the trade media as well as consumer publications and websites. A report issued by market intelligence firm iSuppli forecasts that the market for premium mobile content will exceed $44 billion by 2011, more than doubling from $20 million anticipated this year.

The major driving force for the mobile content developer is to have easy access to the information and APIs (application programming interface) which are held confidential by the OEMs and OS providers of mobile devices.

There should be one organization that can set guidelines and standards for content development by consulting all the stakeholders in the value chain. This will enable developers to focus only on the core issue, which is to develop applications for the consumers that can add value.

This is not as simple as it seems. Due to various political, economical and competitive landscape constraints, it's difficult to unite all the stake holders at one place and develop standards for content developers. Until then, we can say that the lack of standards will remain the biggest hurdle for the content developer community.

Umar Akram is the founder and VP of Mobile Weaver ApS and serves as the member of the board. Mobile Weaver's Youpark is an online storefront with over 12,000 mobile games and programs.

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