China Mobile looks to upgrade services

Personalized ringtones, ringback and MMS are some services Chinese users like and WAP is catching on, but China Mobile is looking to offer more.

Personalized ringtones, ringback and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) are some of the services Chinese users prefer today and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services have already gained 15 million subscribers, an executive at China Mobile (Hong Kong) said Tuesday at 3GSM World Congress Asia, but the company is looking for new ideas.

Value-added services represent a fifth of revenues at the world's largest mobile phone service provider, but it needs to be more, said Lu Xiangdong, a member of the board of directors at China Mobile, which boasted 231 million subscribers as of the end of August.

The company is looking to beef up its offerings with other services, such as mobile TV, games and location services, he said.

"At China Mobile, we haven't developed any unique services, but we will focus on getting subscribers to use more services," Lu said.

Third-generation, or 3G, mobile services could increase user interest in China, but the Chinese government hasn't given a clear time frame for 3G licensing, he said.

The run up to the 2008 Olympics, slated for Beijing, should prompt the government to hurry up the licensing process, because international guests will want to use the service, Lu said.

For organizations, China Mobile has worked on a number of services. For example, the company offers the police a mobile phone that can be used to check if a person's driver's license or identification is fake or invalid. The phones can also send pictures of an auto accident or other incident back to the station immediately for processing, Lu said.

Around 60,000 enterprises in China use the company's services, which are usually packages developed specifically for each customer, he said.

The company will continue to add new subscribers as fast as possible, and its sheer size will help it roll out services, Lu said.

But he lamented that developing new value-added services is difficult, and called it one of the biggest opportunities, and challenges for mobile phone service providers.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service

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