2011 will go down as a landmark year in the mobile industry – for the first time ever a major Tier-1 operator was forced to issue a profit warning because of lower than expected voice and SMS revenues.
Millions now use free mobile messaging services to avoid charges levied by their mobile operators. WhatsApp sells for just 99 cents in most app stores and is reported to own between 10 and 20 million users. It enables subscribers to use their phones to send messages and multimedia to other WhatsApp users, effectively free of charge.
Beyond attacking existing revenue channels, services like WhatsApp are also guilty of eroding customer loyalty amongst mobile operators and device manufacturers. These services are accessible on virtually any mobile network and across a variety of mobile operating systems, so customers simply choose the most cost-effective operator packages and phone deals. Players across the mobile industry are very much aware of this threat and are investing in initiatives to safeguard their revenue channels.
Here Kim Hartlev, Chief Technical Officer at mobile messaging specialist Synchronica, shares his views on what 2012 will hold for the industry:
1. It will be ‘gloves off’ for mobile operators and device manufacturers in 2012 as they make massive investments to their product portfolios, while digging deeply into their pockets to build marketing initiatives to promote these offerings.
2. Operator-branded messaging services will become increasingly ‘zero-rated’ with operators adding extra features as a means of promoting user uptake.
3. Smartphone’s will continue to grow in the developed world, while emerging markets will be further introduced to the next generation of affordable featurephones, jam-packed with apps and solutions relevant to the markets they serve.
4. Taking advantage of the Smartphone revolution, European operators will spearhead the rollout of RCS/RCS-e, but North American operators won’t be far behind!
5. With Nokia introducing a revitalised product suite, Windows Phone 7 will finally become a viable alternative to iOS, BlackBerry and Android.
6. Tablet computing will continue to encroach on the notebook space, and may even obliterate netbooks.
7. Operators will use their geographical and customer insight to introduce ‘social messaging’ – group-based anonymous chatting at large events. It will also act as a powerful and targeted advertising channel.