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Upside for UK Mobile Content and Services

The UK mobile content and services market is on the verge of becoming a multi-billion dollar industry -- provided the sector can tap into an addressable market approaching 50 percent of UK mobile users, according to a new market study by Informa.

The study entitled "UK Mobile Content Survey: What Consumers Want," analyzes the results of a comprehensive survey by Informa Telecoms & Media -- in association with Orange UK and fieldwork partner Starcom Mediavest exploring mobile content behavior in which almost 2,000 mobile subscribers in the UK participated.

Results from the survey reveal that the UK mobile content market was worth 661 million pounds in 2006, with 50 percent of revenues coming from the "mobile cash rich" 25-34 year-old market segment. Those revenues look set to skyrocket, should the wireless industry generate a more consistent spending behavior.

"Today, the regular buyers of mobile content, those who purchase a minimum of one item of content every three months, represent one-fifth of mobile users," said Nick Lane, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, and author of the report. "However, the survey uncovers a further 30 percent of occasional consumers that will purchase at least one item of content per year. If the wireless industry can encourage these occasional spenders to regularly consume content, then the addressable mobile-content-market spend over a three-month period will expand by 150 percent."

While 50 percent of respondents said mobile content prices were too high, the survey revealed 5 pounds as the optimum figure consumers are willing to spend per month -- on top of their current voice and messaging fees. Services and content priced above the 5 pound monthly threshold will appeal to less than 5 percent of UK mobile users.

"This is presenting the industry with a dilemma: as premium rate pricing for services such as mobile TV could potentially cannibalise revenues from other services within the mobile content ecosystem," says Lane. "The door is now wide open for mobile advertising to subsidise mobile content and inflate the mobile content user base."

However, one key trend to emerge from the Informa survey results is that of User-Adapted Content, which they define.

"By side-loading songs from their PC on to their mobile phone and using as a ringtone, or taking a picture on the device and using as wallpaper, users are repurposing existing forms of content to perform numerous tasks on their mobile," says Lane. "There are no confusing rights issues to negotiate and no costs, so it's highly appealing to the consumer."

But while much is being made of content available on mobile phones, the UK consumers are using existing services and demanding more practical services. While 35 percent of respondents claim to have used the mobile Internet (including WAP browsing), location-based services and mobile banking topped the poll asking respondents to outline the service they would "most like to see" on their mobile phone.

Gavin Forth, Head of Entertainment at Orange UK, said "Over the last few years, the mobile Internet has grown from a slow and clumsy monochrome experience into an essential consumer and business tool for news, entertainment and other services on the move. As an industry we now need to eliminate the barriers still facing our customers to ensure the mobile internet ecosystem thrives by driving smart pricing, innovative partnerships and allowing the phone to become an extension of our customers own personalities."

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