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The lion's share of revenues from MMS will come from entertainment-based services rather than peer-to-peer messaging, according to Juniper Research.

The UK firm has concluded from interviewing 40 industry leaders that MMS has the potential to generate revenues in excess of $8.3bn by 2004. Approximately $5.6 billion of that will be generated through content delivery and provisioning, rather than pure peer-to-peer messaging, at $2.7bn.

The research firm believes that the most successful services will be those that truly take advantage of the multimedia platform and the 'anytime, anywhere' nature of the technology. It also estimates that business use alone will account for $1.4bn of MMS revenue in 2004.

However, it adds that such revenues will only be realised if operators quickly implement cross-network services and roaming facilities in order to allow the market to reach the necessary critical mass of enabled users, and that more affordable and easy to use MMS-enabled handsets are made available.

"There is much more to MMS than picture-messaging," said Charles Lafage, a senior analyst at Juniper Research. "MMS enables a wide range of mobile information and entertainment services, that will generate twice as much revenue as peer-to-peer messaging." He added, "MMS can deliver where WAP failed: easy to access to content and services over mobile networks and a revenue opportunity for operators and third party providers."

Lafage said that the pre-paid service would be essential to driving mass-market sales, but it is one that still faces some technical challenges, such as billing. Customers will want to know how big a data transfer will be how much credit they have, he said.

MMS services have only been recently introduced on the Irish market, and as such both Vodafone and O2 are cautious in predicting the evolution of the service. For its part, O2 said in a statement that although it had only just introduced its MMS service, it is "constantly reviewing and updating our product portfolio to suit our customers' needs."

"We totally agree with the recommendation that 'operators must hurry to implement cross-network MMS and roaming facilities...' and we have our test cross-network in place and are ready to begin proceedings with other operators."

"Our position is that we would see a market for both types of services," said a spokeswoman for Vodafone, adding that it was far too early to comment on specific revenue streams for MMS. "The focus at the present time is on peer-to-peer messaging," she said. Vodafone is currently offering its picture-to-picture messaging service free of charge until the end of January as a promotional tool.

The spokeswoman added that the company does intend to introduce a multi-media library of images that users can download and send to others, but would not specify a date for its introduction.

Elsewhere in Europe, German mobile operator T-Mobile has said that it will provide "erotic" content on its MMS services as well as news and sport. Such content will be almost three times as expensive as MMS premium news services at €1.49 per message and customers can receive up to three news/erotic messages per day.

Some analysts have welcomed this move, saying that such services are bound to be popular and shows that the operator is determined to strengthen its multimedia portfolio and will boost its sales revenue.

However, the price has been criticised for being too high and there is concern that users will quickly lose interest. In addition, Parents may be wary of such erotic content and will want to make sure that their children are not able to easily buy such services. Imposing an age limit on some of its content services may be very difficult to do for its pre-paid services.

© ENN

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