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As debt-laden mobile operators look towards a new year to generate cash from subscribers, all eyes seem to be on what the new ‘killer apps’ will be. Bruce Jackson, chief technical officer at elata, a U.K. mobile data software specialist, says there will be none until operators put a system to deliver them in place

As executives of mobile operators huddle around a sparse festive table this year, the talk will inevitably turn from indebtedness to the new ‘killer’ applications which are planned to relieve the gloom in the new year.

Historically, every time a mobile operator has needed to improve revenue from services, it simply launched a new one. And why not? After all, Short Messaging Services (SMS) have so far proven lucrative beyond expectation, and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) that use next generation networks to send pictures and video clips between subscribers may soon offer a good return.

The new Sony Ericsson joint venture certainly sees this as next year’s killer application – it has just launched two MMS handsets, and its Finnish competitor Nokia plans the same early next year with its new 7650 handset. Nokia says MMS services will add incremental revenue from operators’ existing SMS customers by allowing them to charge more from subscribers for sending multimedia message attachments. Ericsson will be relying on its MMS-capable T65 and T68 handsets, which hit the shelves last October, to entice last minute Christmas shoppers to upgrade handsets.

But oddly enough, Ericsson says MMS will only be implemented into the T68 when services are available to support this feature.

Not only are operators slow with launching new services, but some are saying they’ll wait until next year to commercially launch the GPRS (General Packet Radio System) networks expected to boost MMS uptake.

Why? It’s largely because although they may have the infrastructure ready, they don’t have the technical platforms in place to actually manage their subscribers and deliver services efficiently to handsets.

Very few operators are talking openly about these subscriber management and delivery systems, let alone using them. Subscribers’ expectations, understandably high on the hope of exciting and enjoyable multimedia services like MMS, will be dashed if operators don’t start soon. The market could be forgiven for thinking operators have deliberately overlooked delivery systems in their business plans, but a closer look reveals there may be a grain of truth in this.

Most operators currently need entire separate sets of operational support, billing systems and platforms to deliver mobile services based on either voice, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Wireless Java or a host of others. Operators know that every time they add a new service under this set up, they increase their operational expenditure enormously. However, the factors that used to differentiate their business from competitors, such as coverage, just aren’t there any more, so they have little option.

So in trying to gain the upper ground, operators have been creating business propositions wrapped around new services, and only then considering the mechanics of launching them. They have separate business units to deliver, for example, travel or sports content to subscribers, but have been keen to cover up the business models so they can sell those business units in the future. While this may make a sale relatively straightforward in terms of paring away the network-specific function of each unit, it causes its own problems in effective service delivery.

A good prediction for next year is that operators will find it increasingly difficult to provide an integrated set of data services if they sell the units that supply them. Planning this way has left a service vacuum in the market and meant very few operators have a subscriber management and service delivery platform that offers integrated services.

In contradiction to the strategy they advocated for so long, operators are beginning to agree that their best chance of increased incremental revenue comes from the consumer, not the corporate market.

In that case, killer applications are likely to be the games children play between themselves on phones in playgrounds, not ways of accessing business data. However, the real killer application for the coming year won’t be a game, corporate data access or even MMS, but the subscriber management and service delivery systems operators need to deliver them.



About elata:
elata has been developing Java software solutions since 1996 and has created elata senses to address the needs of the mobile service provider. Platform and device independent, elata senses enables the service provider to:
· Offer users new services for their subscriber’s devices from a personalised data catalogue
· Deliver all types of data services and applications to all mobile devices
· Manage services on the devices, from WAP phones and PDAs to Java and next generation handsets
· Manage and model the subscriber base by profile or proposition, to enable targeting and personalisation of user services.

elata senses offers carrier class scalability and fully integrates into an end-to-end OSS/BSS system. Whether delivering targeted services or managing the mobile desktop, elata senses removes the complexities of modern data delivery and management and sets a clear migration path to third generation technologies and beyond.
Visit the website at www.elata.com

For more information contact:
Terri Fellowes / Claire Smither,
Nelson Bostock Communications,
Tel: 0207 229 4400,
Email: terri.fellowes@nelsonbostock.com / claire.smither@nelsonbostock.com

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