For some time I have been keeping an eye on MMS. In part because I suspect something is up with MMS, but also because some experiences with MMS made me start a post about the future of MMS six months ago.
When introduced, MMS – Multimedia Message Service – was somehow envisioned to replace SMS. “Same as SMS…but with pictures”. Only it never has. Actually, MMS traffic volume has been ridiculously low in comparison to the volume of SMS traffic. From time to time the discussion of whether MMS is a technological dead end pops up – for instance when the original iPhone (and the subsequent iPhone 3G) was introduced without MMS support.
I believe in MMS, but I do not believe in it as an replacement of SMS (that is the subject of the aforementioned, other post). Recently, a couple of data points have come to my attention, which suggest there is in fact a case for MMS.
The first data point is the most recent Telecom statistics report for the first half of 2008, published by the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency. AS can be seen from the graph below, MMS traffic is clearly picking up. Comparing the traffic volume of the first half of 2008 to the volume of the second half of 2007, traffic increased by 40 %. Comparing year on year, traffic grew by 89 % between the first half of 2007 and the first half of 2008.
In comparison, SMS traffic grew moderately – 7 % HoH and 11 % YoY (using SMS statistics from the same report). Of course, the number of sent MMS messages continues to be just a tiny fraction of the number of sent SMS messages – less than 0.5 % – but the rate of growth is high.
The other data point is a little closer to home since it is based on the message traffic handled by my employer, OnlineCity. As can be seen from the figure included below, data confirms the Telecom statistics report. MMS traffic increased more than 2.5 times between the first and second half of 2008. Comparing the second half of 2008 with the second half of 2007 shows even bigger growth – traffic increased by more than 350 %.
During the same period, SMS traffic doubled, which suggests the traffic handled by OnlineCity has increased in general. Still, the much higher growth rate for MMS indicates something is happening here in particular.
I think there are three main seasons why MMS traffic is growing:
BETTER HANDSET SUPPORT
One of the fundamental MMS show stoppers for end users has been that MMS did not work out of the box. Unlike SMS, MMS had to be set up manually –configuring data packet access points etc.. That has slowly been changing and most handsets are now capable of simply working out the proper network settings by themselves, when first turned on with a SIM card inserted.
A case in point: I recently got my mom a new phone. and much to my surprise, I received a picture on a MMS from her a few days later. When handing over the new phone to my mom, I only explained basic stuff like sending SMS, using the camera – I had not explained or set up MMS. If my mom can work out how to send MMS, so can a lot of other people.
CHEAPER TRAFFIC TARIFS
In general, the cost of sending a MMS message has decreased over the past 12 to 18 months. Also, a critical mass of subscribers now have flat rate, all-you-can-eat SMS and MMS included with their plans.
In Denmark, MMS is slowly loosing its reputation as something terribly expensive.
MOBILE MARKETING AND INFORMATION SERVICES
As end users have been discovering MMS, marketers and service providers have become aware of MMS as a viable communication channel and technology.
Not very long ago clients would look at you dumbfounded (possibly with suspicion), if you suggested to base activities on MMS. It used to be a hard sell, but the snowball has started rolling – everyone can now point to their own, or other’s, campaigns and explain how company X has successfully employed MMS.
Online communities, information services and mobile marketing now use MMS as a standard way for users/consumers to contribute content.
Within mobile marketing, MMS is used increasingly to send advertisements to consumers – MVNO Blyk is a case in point.
I have another post coming up with some thoughts on MMS and I am convinced MMS will be an even bigger hit in 2009.
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