A couple of days ago, the Mobile Data Association released figures showing that in the two years since May 2006 there was a 20% increase in the number of people accessing the Internet in the UK via their mobile handsets. Vishwanath Alluri, CEO of mobile valued-added services provider IMImobile, says one of the key reasons this figure is not higher is that it has not been easy to locate or download applications for mobile devices outside of the walled garden supplied by a subscribers network provider.
Just like with a PC, people want to be able to do more with the mobile Internet than just surf, says Alluri. This has been proven with the phenomenal early success of the Apple iPhone App Store, which has launched with over 500 applications offering anything from games, to music, ebooks, social networking and location-based services. The point is, this phenomenon could have occurred much sooner, but operators have operated, and to a large extent still are, operating with mobile garden walls, where operators make it difficult for customers to access content and applications outside of their own proprietary portals.
Alluri compares this approach with the growth of the traditional Internet:
Mobile operators have to abandon the walled garden approach if they are to exploit the potential of the mobile Internet, he says. The early days of the fixed-line Internet were characterised by telco-owned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providing their window to the world with portals designed to push users to content owned by the ISP in question, or by one of its partners. It didnt work, because users soon found that there was much more to the web than what the ISP was pushing, and companies and individuals were quick to exploit the open architecture of the web to develop alternative destinations and applications. Those market dynamics led to the environment we have today, in which consumers build a relationship with the brands that suit them, rather than the ISP.
Alluri adds that fixed-line operators revenues have not suffered from this phenomenon, and says that mobile operators wont either.
Just as they experienced exponential data traffic and revenue, mobile operators will experience the same, which will more than make up for the narrowing margins in their voice business, says Alluri. We have already seen this with Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo which has taken the innovative approach of opening up its network to approximately 17,000 service providers, and has seen data revenues increase correspondingly.
IMImobiles technology solutions are currently enabling over 200 mobile operators and 400 content providers to deliver a range of innovative services and content to mobile subscribers around the world.