MMS firms hope for a sporting chance

Mobile operators are hoping that Euro 2004 will provide a boost to multimedia messaging services

European mobile operators hoping that MMS will boost their margins are counting on Euro 2004 and the Olympics to give their products a lift.

So far, MMS has proven a damp squib for the companies that hoped that it would take off like SMS and provide that magic boost to the bottom line and the good old ARPU (average revenue per user).

In the UK, 79 percent of mobile users have never sent or received an MMS, according to NOP research done for network software producer Sarip. Admittedly, 45 percent of them just don't have the kit; while another 1 percent aren't even sure if they do or not.

For those who have sent and received MMS, 78 percent have used it for pics of family and friends, 14 for sports clips, 13 for holiday postcards and 27 percent for music clips. The top user is male, 15-24, and lives in the north.

Only the music clips and football seem to offer the operators any potential for the day-in, day-out boost to the bottom line that they are praying for.

And they look with envy at the soaring take-up of MMS and 3G in South-East Asia, which was triggered by the World Cup in 2002.

"We still have a lot more to do as an industry to encourage consumers to embrace MMS in the same way as they have SMS," said Sicap's head of marketing, Per-John Lundin.

Besides driving the handsets into the hands of the customers, Lundin says the services need to be "extremely user-friendly like Vodafone Live! But the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle is compelling content."