This week, regulators in the United States began looking at supposedly unfair business practices from the mobile carriers, considering the case that the exclusive handset deals make for unfair competition. However, halfway around the world, telecommunication regulators are doing something that is actually good for business.
In the Philippines this week, it was announced that telecommunications regulators would crack down on spam sent to mobile phones, and that service providers even risked losing their licenses if they violated the ban! This came down from President Gloria Arroyo, who gave order to the National Telecommunications Commission of the Philippines that beginning this week the sending of unsolicited messages via mobile phone networks short message services (SMS) was banned.
This order comes because consumers in the Philippines have been charged for receiving the spam, and complaints to the NTC have been increasing as a result. Currently, about half of the 90 million people living in the Philippines have a mobile phone, and adoption rates are increasing. And because calls are more expensive to make than text messages, many mobile device users tend to rely almost exclusively on mobile messaging. The Philippines carriers were also offered a unique opportunity as well, and that was to send a one-time promotional message to subscribers, but this was abused, and henceforth the sending of any unsolicited message is banned.
Spam in the form of messages hasn’t really taken off too much in the United States, and there have been efforts to curb the practice. But unsolicited calling continues. Even with do-not-call lists in place, many telemarketers have devised ways of spoofing calls and have continued to call both landlines and mobile numbers. Maybe this is something that the regulators in the United States should concern themselves with instead.
Are Apps Going to Kill Mobile TV?
TV on mobile devices has been just around the bend for… oh the last couple of years. As I mentioned earlier this week, it was hyped in 2007 as a way to see the Tour de France, and in 2008 it was hyped as the way that potentially billions of people (that’s billions with a B) would watch the Olympics. But despite all this hype, mobile TV on handsets hasn’t proven it is ready for prime time.
Movies suggest that in those bygone days people would huddle around storefronts to watch major news unfold. And even in the last presidential election, people in Times Square still looked up at the “Jumbotron” screens to see the results. So why isn’t mobile TV taking off? Reuters has an interesting take on it today, and suggests that Apps could be the TV killer. And there isn’t one single killer app that is doing this either, but the fact that many apps are to blame.
I’ll suggest that it isn’t so much apps that are killing mobile TV adoption, instead it is usage and devices. First, mobile TV sounds great in concept. But if you’re commuting home on a subway–whether it is New York, London, Los Angeles or Paris – you’re not going to get live TV streaming. If you can’t make a call because you don’t have a signal you’re not easily going to be able to watch “live” TV. Secondly, time-shifting of TV programming at home from DVR boxes has made needing to catch live events – even ones such as the Olympics or the Tour de France – unnecessary. Third, most major networks (broadcast or cable) now provide their shows for view online. So if you miss LOST on TV, and didn’t set your DVR you can still catch it the next day online.
So this makes watching TV on the third screen unnecessary. At least for those in very developed countries with this infrastructure in place. On the flip side, in the developing world, this promise of mobile TV still has a way to go because of the devices.
To this point, we have too many operating systems with potentially more on the way. More is better unless it is designing something that will change the world. In that case, one standard is the way to go. But also, we have too many devices, and devices that get updated and replaced very quickly. Hence, instead of finding a way to broadcast TV to all mobile users, some are looking at ways of sending more specific content, ala the coverage of events like the Tour, via apps or through WAP sites. In other words, yes apps are part of the equation.
But mobile TV isn’t dead yet. It just needs more time and refinement to get it to work. Apps are great, but they can’t do everything.