Study: Messaging services demand is overrated

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is in danger of becoming another over-hyped technology like WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), and telecommunications companies must reassess their predictions of how much extra revenue it will bring, according to a report from industry research group, Wireless World Forum (W2F).

From talking to "key executives" among its 3,000 industry members, W2F, in London, predicts that MMS will be worth US$5.8 billion across 16 key markets: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.

That figure is about 80 percent lower than the predictions being quoted by many industry analysts, W2F said in a statement. Current industry analysis is predicting that 20 billion MMS messages will be sent per month within the next two years. The real figure will be closer to 200 million, it said.

"We went into this looking for the foundations of the hype, and managed to trace most of it back to statements from the people furthest from the consumer -- the infrastructure providers," said Josh Dhaliwal, executive partner of W2F.

"In a saturated market they can't sell any more SMS (short message service) products and so they have to push new services. But they're marketing the features, not the benefits to the consumer," he said.

Handset manufacturers, too, see lengthening renewal times and are keen to tempt operators with new features, Dhaliwal said.

"We're not saying that MMS won't be a success, but it won't replace SMS. It won't be used for communication, it's more about entertainment, " Dhaliwal said.

W2F knows what it's talking about when it talks about the dangers of hype. Until establishing it a year ago, its founders ran an online messaging forum called the WAP Group. WAP technology was heavily promoted two years ago but has never really taken off because it was seen as difficult to use and most consumers did not see strong advantages in the service.

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Gillian Law

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