This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of NGN.
From a pure business perspective, a mobile value-added service is an additional service for which subscribers pay extra. In other words, the service offers some kind of value, and the subscribers are willing to pay for it. Today, the two most popular services worldwide are short message service and voicemail, but there are literally hundreds of them, differing around the world and ranging from CRBT to specialized portals to daily jokes or horoscopes. With the advent of 3G and even 4G services worldwide, and the additional bandwidth these networks offer, several new trends are emerging.
We can categorize the services into four major mobile VAS categories: advanced network services, messaging, entertainment and mobile commerce. And each of them continues their migration forward.
Advanced Network Services
While ultimately HD voice (wideband audio) will become the typical codec used in mobile networks, right now HD voice, for both a conversation and for any kind of mobile value-added service, can be viewed as an advanced service.
Another key network service is conferencing and videoconferencing – on all modes of devices, including laptops, mobile phones and tablets – on all networks, including mobile networks.
Additionally, location-based services are becoming increasingly attractive as security and safety concerns mount. Parents can keep track of their children or even find a lost phone. Marketing departments are also looking at location-based advertising that offers information about local attractions or shops based on a person’s location in a café or restaurant.
Trillions of SMSs are already sent each year, and due to social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert), with an increase in M2M, and with businesses using SMS to proactively reach customers to keep in touch with them, it seems SMS growth is almost boundless. SMS, though, will evolve and become more of a “rich” medium. In pre-paid markets where there is no voicemail, both voice SMS and video SMS are growing.
The MVAS category that creates the most excitement is entertainment. The options are many, and some services are localized while others have universal appeal.
The earliest entertainment-related services were audience polling to decide the winners on reality-based TV shows, music selections played in lieu of a dial tone, and dating services with chat rooms that use conferencing technology. Some entertainment services have worldwide appeal, but need to be tailored to regional tastes. These include subscriptions to joke of the da” and horoscope readings. Voice blogging is also popular, as are network-based multi-player games, and of course, gambling.
Perhaps the most popular entertainment service is viewing videos that are streamed to the handset from YouTube (News - Alert) or other sources, as well as sports highlights and newscasts. Many of these over-the-top services utilize the broadband wireless network, but are not offered directly by the network operator.
As interest in video entertainment grows, so will the desire for high quality of experience, or QoE, especially if a viewer is paying a premium for it or it is accompanied by advertising, since the advertiser wants to make the best impression possible. In addition, the ability to provide quality video on a wide range of end user devices and to be context-aware will become increasingly important, whether the device is a large-screen HDTV, a laptop, a tablet, or a mobile phone. Software that evaluates and tracks QoE will become increasingly important.
As banking over the Internet on a laptop or a desktop grows in popularity, the next natural step is banking from your mobile device. Video-enhanced IVR systems make mobile bank transactions easy regardless of location, and speech recognition can provide security by recognizing the speech patterns of customers and making PIN code keystrokes unnecessary. Mobile stock transactions might also benefit from this technology.
Another category beyond mobile banking is mobile money and mobile payment. In developing countries, mobile money for the “unbanked” is a growing mobile service. Operators already have a billing mechanism in place, allowing the mobile phone to potentially replace credit and debit cards. Mobile health care services are also enriching traditional service access.
Finally, mobile advertising is a steadily growing multi-billion dollar industry. The Internet appears free-of-charge to users, yet they are constantly bombarded with ads and offers. The mobile industry seems to be following the same model with subscribers often choosing to view a commercial rather than pay for a service. Print advertising is beginning to contain an alphanumeric code or QR icon that can provides access to a short video or product picture on a mobile phone.
Mobile value-added services have always added an innovative element to our industry. With increased network capability and increased user capability, the service innovation will likely accelerate. It will be exciting.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi