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MMS, video calls still going steady in S'pore

Use of multimedia messaging service and video calls remain stable in Singapore, and expected to continue growing, say local telcos.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Despite the emergence of new mobile tools, MMS (multimedia messaging service) and video call use in the country have been steady and climbing over the past few years, according to local operators.

In response to a ZDNet Asia query, MobileOne (M1) said MMS usage has grown over the last three years, with video call minutes increasing by 24 percent over that time frame.

SingTel said its MMS growth was 10 percent in 2008 over 2007, and a larger 20 percent in 2009 over the previous year.

StarHub said video call usage among its customers has been stable, though it saw a slight dip in multimedia messages. A company spokesperson added that some 13.3 million MMS messages were transmitted over its network in 2008, compared to 14.6 million in 2005.

Commenting on these figures, Alex Chau, IDC's Asia-Pacific senior research manager for mobile and wireless technologies services research, said MMS revenues in Singapore are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent over the next five years.

Chau said in an e-mail interview MMS' main push comes from the wide availability of built-in cameras in phones in the market.

However, he noted, video calls will remain niche, unless operators bundle video call minutes into their tariff plans.

In 2005, in an effort to raise interest in video calls, local telcos lowered video call rates closer to that of ordinary voice rates, but several top telco executives then admitted they expected voice still to dominate in the years after.

The three telcos also registered increasing IDD call minutes over the past few years. StarHub said its users clocked almost 1.6 billion IDD minutes in 2008, compared to 728 million in 2005.

M1 said its international minutes rose 42 percent over the past year to hit 523 million minutes in September this year. The mobile operator clocked 213 million minutes in 2007.

SingTel also saw a 36.7 percent year-on-year increase to hit 2.4 billion minutes in March this year, excluding calls made to Malaysia. In 2007, this figure was just below 1.2 billion minutes, it said.

IDD voice tariffs such as voice rates, have gone down over the past years as networks went through upgrades and telcos slashed prices to compete.

Chau said mobile IDD minutes, being tied to the business user segment, are expected to go up as the economy picks up.

The analyst added that mobile social networking services are set to "grow tremendously in the coming years", with full track downloads of mobile music expected to "slowly die out".

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