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Mobile Operators Turn to VAS for Growth

ABI Research is examining 15 of the most influential mobile operators in the global market. The first five operators under the microscope are Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, NTT DoCoMo and Verizon Wireless.

"Competition is most definitely spurring on the mobile operators," said Jake Saunders, Director of Global Forecasting. "They have never been so aggressive in rolling out new services. Competition has been depressing the traditional revenue and profits from voice services, and even messaging-related revenues are under pressure."

ABI Research has found:

Mobile TV - hype or reality: In the last six months, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and NTT DoCoMo have launched variations on the theme of mobile TV, or have announced plans to do so. But there are many uncertainties. A number of mobile TV solutions are on offer. Many of them are mutually exclusive, so manufacturers and operators will have to choose sides. That fragmentation could slow the market's takeoff, retarding the buildup of sales volumes. Furthermore many of these mobile TV applications require additional spectrum that is not necessarily in place.

IM interoperability: Interoperability initiatives by Vodafone and Orange should presage the steady adoption of mobile Instant Messaging. Many end-users are effectively playing a form of text messaging "tag" with friends and family. IM will make it more natural.

Mobile devices are about to get really smart: The rate of innovation in the mobile device market is set to ratchet up a notch, driven by the handset subsidy model. Subsidies may keep up tariffs, but they are fuelling a feeding frenzy on the shop floor.

Music A-go-go: Despite the price differentials between downloading music on a handset and on a PC, end-users are taking advantage of paid music downloads, even in unexpected markets such as China and India.

3G roaming a mark of maturity: GSM took off once operator-to-operator international roaming was established. Both NTT DoCoMo (Japan) and SK Telecom (Korea) have announced 3G roaming agreements with their European counterparts.

EDGE makes its presence felt: Orange has rolled out EDGE in France and is in the process of doing so in the UK. This unsung data transfer protocol is likely to be implemented by operators as it is widely supported by PDA-type devices, and allows the operator to make the most of GSM and UMTS spectrum.

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