Mobile data services come of age

Cost remains a barrier but the masses don't seem to mind too much

Although voice and SMS messaging still dominate the use of mobile phones, there is now increasing activity beyond this. It has taken a time, but use of mobile data services (MDS) is now disseminating beyond a small number of high level users to the wider market, according to the Wireless Data Services Study 2007.

The annual international study investigates mobile phone user engagement beyond voice and looks at the current type and levels of MDS, the influencing factors and barriers to the use of MDS, and the use of MDS across global markets.

m.Net Corporation, which co-ordinates the project in Australia together with the Department of Commerce, and the University of Adelaide, defines MDS as all of the digital data services that you access through your mobile phone, excluding voice calls. This includes purchasing, communications, information and entertainment.

The study found MDS is an important factor in the choice of carriers and handsets.

  • Cost is still a key barrier to the use of MDS, but there is certainly starting to be a change in mindset, and the masses are starting to come on board with MDS, said Dr Marisa Maio Mackay, director of research, m.Net.

  • MDS wasn't even on the radar 12 or 18 months ago, but it's becoming an influencing factor in not only the measure of carrier satisfaction, but also in what would encourage consumers to change carrier if they had better MDS offerings. Sixty per cent of respondents considered MDS a reason to change carrier.

  • The usability of the handset is also becoming more important to consumers (80 per cent of respondents wanted a larger screen, for example). This sets the groundwork for the use of the phone beyond voice and SMS.

  • Another key finding was that people are just as likely to use their mobile phones for MDS at home as they are when they are out and about. According to Dr Maio Mackay, this reinforces the importance of innovation, not replication on the mobile phone.

    Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report.

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