Ringback tones allow telephone users to specify a particular sound -- often a piece of music or dialogue from a movie -- which anyone who calls them will hear in place of a conventional network ringing tone. Because ringbacks are stored on a central network for playback, they aren't restricted to the limited range of sounds available for mobile phone ring tones. The tones can be customised for particular groups of callers, so family members might hear a song while business associates hear a pithy line from the latest action blockbuster.
Ringbacks have proved particularly popular in Asia, and the Arc Group estimates total global annual ringback sales at more than AU$4 billion. However, it may be a while before Australian mobile users enjoy such a service, despite the popularity of other customisation services such as ring tones, wallpapers and games.
"We're certainly investigating what ringback tones would mean for Telstra," said general manager for wireless consumer data services Graham Gordon. However, Gordon argues that cultural differences between Australia and other countries in the region might mean ringbacks aren't a guaranteed smash.
"Their popularity will certainly be strong, but I'm a bit reticent to launch into it just yet," he said.
Because they use original recordings, ringbacks have higher licence fees, and those are more easy to monetise in markets with a larger population, Gordon noted.
Gordon's comments echo a recent report from Ovum which noted that Western consumers may not have the same enthusiasm for ringbacks that Asian countries have shown. "The ringback tone service is difficult to explain and market," the report noted.