Looking Back, Looking Forward

Jay Seaton, Chief Marketing Officer at Airwide Solutions, offers a retrospective on 2006, and forecasts the top mobile trends for 2007
For everyone involved in the mobile messaging industry, 2006 was a year dominated by discussions about new technologies and applications. As phones became more sophisticated, the mobile communications industry made a concerted push to deploy services and applications from which end-users could generate real value, providing greater revenue for the operator and helping to reduce customer churn.
2006 was the year the industry turned its attention to mobile search. The opening up of walled gardens made the search box of interest to everyone and for the first time, the industry introduced ad-funded mobile content.
2006 was the year in which the mobile handset chipped away at the dominance of the iPod, and more sophisticated handsets gobbled up low-end digital cameras and MP3 players. The companies that power mobile music continued their consolidation and, fuelled by the ease and immediacy of mobile messaging, 2006 was the year operators evolved their portfolios to include a host of new applications such as picture sharing, text voting and mobile marketing.

SMS prevails
Despite the popularity of new applications and services, 2006 also saw
a renewed dependence on the established earners such as SMS. In 2006,
the majority (more than 80%) of operators revenues continued to come
from SMS, especially in countries with fast developing mobile networks
such as the Philippines, where a typical day sees over 400 million test
messages sent. The view that SMS was rapidly being replaced by other
messaging technologies has been replaced by the recognition that
revenue-generating services can be rapidly and reliably deployed on the
SMS infrastructure, and the adoption of those services will be
dramatically faster, due to the ubiquitous nature of SMS.
Another development in 2006 was the increase in mobile theft, fraud,
viruses and spam resulting from mobile devices becoming increasingly
sophisticated and expensive. Currently, some mobile operators
voluntarily police potential fraudsters, but as messaging services
continue to grow and become more complex, there will be a stronger need
to implement a comprehensive range of features such as blacklisting,
anti-spoofing and anti-flooding across the network to prevent revenue
leakage, preserve customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and avoid
identity theft. And in addition to security controls at the network
level, 2006 saw the emergence of a wide range of personalised controls,
including allowing subscribers to define their own mobile anti-spam

What next?

So what is expected for 2007? Fuelled by rapid adoption in the US, and
mature but expanding markets in Europe and Asia, Airwide envisages the
next 12 months being a very positive year for the mobile messaging
industry. As individuals and organisations demand more specific
tailored solutions and services to meet their growing mobility needs,
we predict that the market for mobile applications and services will
While there has long been hype about other messaging technologies, 2007
will see messaging revenues evolve beyond simple text-based
services. However, to boost revenues in the short term, we will see
operators deploy a host of SMS-based applications such as email-style
functionality for SMS auto-forwarding, out-of-office responses, message
archival and group lists, as well as interactive applications such as
SMS voting.  These will provide a bridge to next generation platforms
and enhanced services by enabling the organic growth of SMS.
In the longer term, 2007 will see next generation messaging
applications and technologies such as mobile IM gain in popularity, but
they are no longer viewed as growing at the expense of SMS. The
recognition of IMS as an evolving reference architecture, not a
panacea, will continue. Operators will continue to shift their focus to
finding a practical pathway to gain the positive attributes of IMS,
such as component-based scalability, open interfaces and multi-protocol
support, without disrupting the infrastructure that has been invested
in. To achieve maximum benefit, operators must be careful to preserve
their existing investments by deploying tiered architectures that
dramatically reduce operating expenses, while also protecting their
brand from increasing mobile security threats. Done well, this will
lead to a natural and well-timed rollout of next generation messaging
services that will offer greater differentiation, helping to build
brand loyalty and reduce subscriber churn, while at the same time
offering additional revenue opportunities.