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It's a Wild West Mobile Content Marketplace

Robust, dedicated content delivery platforms are crucial to the success of mobile content sales, according to a new study from ABI Research.

"The mobile content marketplace is currently something of a Wild West frontier, especially for off-portal sales," says principal analyst Ken Hyers. "As operators increasingly move to off-portal content sales (an established trend in Western Europe and becoming more important in North America), a robust delivery platform is critical not just to operators but to the content developers themselves."

However content delivery platforms have not always been used, at least not in a comprehensive way. When many wireless operators first began offering monophonic ringtones to their customers, a fully integrated content delivery platform was not essential. Rather than use a dedicated platform, linked to billing and customer care systems, operators and the off-portal community of merchants would deliver content and handle billing through SMSC.

As content grew more complex, and off-portal content sales increased, issues such as incompatibility with mobile devices, an inability to manage more complex billing models, and the overall cost of content became important. Yet many content sale transactions have continued to rely on SMSC to handle much of the delivery and billing.

Carriers have sought to overcome these problems by building or sourcing specialized systems. Initially, many of these solutions were not robust or flexible enough to handle all these tasks (such as delivering the right version of content for the right mobile handset).

The industry is currently in the midst of a transition to more complex content delivery platforms that gracefully handle the complex issues related to rich content delivery. Dedicated, integrated delivery platforms from companies such as Motricity, Tira Wireless, Qpass, and Volantis, and other fully integrated systems such as Qualcomm's BREW, are necessary to ensure a positive experience for consumers, and a profitable one for developers and operators.

"Content developers need a relationship with one of these major content delivery platform providers," Hyers concludes. "By handling many of these issues, the platforms relieve operators as well as developers of some of the headaches associated with content delivery, and save them time and money."

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