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The market for porn and other adult content on handsets will grow to around $90m in the US and $1bn globally by 2008, according to a study by analysts Yankee Group published yesterday.

Yankee reckons that many carriers are true prudish and risk missing out on a slice of the lucrative market because of misplaced fears. Child protection concerns are real enough but can be managed it concludes in the report Child Protection Unlocks Wireless Adult Content Market.

"US carriers are the latest to discover that half of the traffic outside their walled gardens is related to adult content," Yankee notes. "Fear is trumping greed for the moment, but [adult content and child protection] can work together - if carriers can develop a solid mechanism for protecting minors, as Vodafone UK has done, and they can safely profit from the opportunity."

Adult content includes chat and gaming services but porn is a mainstay for many players in the market. Yankee cites the example of PhoneErotica.com, run by wireless startup PhoneBox Entertainment, which receives more than 75 million hits per week. PhoneErotica.com charges users via their phone bill. It reckons less than five per cent of visitors to wireless adult sites will enter credit cards, versus over 30 per cent who are willing to put the charge on their phone bill. However, most customers of wireless adult content, especially in Europe, find services by sending a premium SMS message, rather than browsing to a WAP site. "Using premium SMS scenario, the cellphone carrier arguably distances itself from the content. The carrier can claim that its relationship to the adult content industry is similar to the landline operator’s relationship with a sex hotline," Yankee reports. ®

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