LETS END THE DOOM AND GLOOM!
by Tomi T Ahonen
Lets stop the collective self-abuse of 3G doom. The facts from around the world no longer support the doubt and utter pessimism around 3G. The key elements of the 3G revenue streams are all now visible and proven to be commercially viable with real mobile carriers all around the world. Not just a few of the services, all of them.
Voice revenues were never in doubt. Voice forms the key component of all major operator 3G business cases, typically expected to bring in 50% of revenues five years from now. In fact the voice tariff erosion in 2001 has been less than most analysts predicted. The biggest element of the 3G business case is on sound basis.
Now lets look at the advanced services starting with SMS. A year ago many countries still wondered if the "Scandinavian miracle" would reach their shores. During 2001 the services have taken off with even the USA, biggest mobile services laggard, seeing SMS traffic double during the first half of 2001. The world has caught SMS fever. SMS typically accounts for about 10% of the revenues of a 3G operator business case in 2006. As SMS is already up to 15% of Western European operator revenues today, if anything, the 10% estimate for 3G revenues by 2006 is remarkably low.
Next lets examine multimedia messaging. While it was still on the wish-list a year ago, multimedia messaging is starting to happen. The first phones have emerged with built-in cameras and several mobile phones exist which can send, read and display various office application documents, such as Word files, Excel sheets and PowerPoint files. If we examine how quickly the attachments have grown onto regular e-mail, we have to admit that similar multimedia attachments can soon become commonplace with SMS. Of course multimedia messaging can generate 10% of revenues by 2006.
Many doubt mobile commerce (m-commerce). Lets keep in mind that in five years m-commerce needs to generate only 10% of 3G revenues. M-commerce is no longer a theory, it is exploding everywhere. Whether paying for parking in Norway, buying a Coke from a vending machine in Brazil, paying for train tickets in Austria, buying movie tickets in America, to doing your banking in the Czech Republic; m-commerce has too many successful real applications all around the world to be be dismissed. In its first application - the ringing tone - m-commerce is generating 400 M USD per year in UK and 300 M USD in Japan alone. The business of m-commerce has established itself.
The other big worry is mobile advertising, which I like to call "mAd". Like m-Commerce, mAd too is becoming commonplace. Early mAd campaigns have been seen all over the globe, from the very early SMS ad sponsored news in Finland, UK and France in the summer of 2000, to successful mAd campaigns in Sweden, Germany, Spain, USA and Japan last year. In Japan it is expected that within the next few months the total revenues generated by mobile advertising will exceed the revenues of fixed internet advertising. Is mAd for-real? Yes. Can mAd be 5% of revenues by 2006? Of course.
One of the less-contested components of the 3G revenues is data access, which typically is expected to bring in about 10% of revenues five years from now. Data access is typically 2% of operator revenues today, it is reasonable to assume that ever more e-business integration projects will adopt mobile solutions such as those at Boeing, where mobile phones directly access various ordering systems directly from the factory floor. Location information can add more to given industries, such as the management of technicians doing cable TV installation in Israel.
The last 5% of revenues is telematics traffic. Part of that is the glamorous race to build the smartest car by every major make from Mercedes to Cadillac to Honda. The less glamorous side may generate half of telematics revenues with remote metering and control solutions. These already exist, from reading electricity meters, water meters, gas meters, etc., and are popping up everywhere from Australia to Sweden to the UK to Colombia.
As to video telephony and music streaming, these are marginal services in the 3G business case. Most 3G cases list video calls and music streaming at about 1% of revenues. Anyone who says that 3G is in trouble because video calls or streaming are having difficulties, is simply not aware how small their contribution was to begin with.
3G is for real. Already seven countries on three continents have live commercial 3G networks. DoCoMo in Japan was first in October, with Telenor in Norway, Manx on the Island of Man, Sonera in Finland and Eurotel in Sweden during 2001; and SK in Korea and Verizon in USA in January 2002. Of course it is true that there is a worldwide shortage of 3G terminals, and yes there are early teething problems as there always are with very first introductions of new generations of infrastructure. Just keep in mind that these seven networks are no longer test networks but rather commercial networks, and dozens more will follow in 2002.
Please don't get me wrong. I don't mean to argue that 3G will be smooth sailing; it won't. I don't mean to argue that 3G has no challenges left: there are many. Contracts with content providers, application developers, roaming, interoperability, the mass-market availability of handsets, the quality of early handsets, etc. are all still issues that lie ahead. But please, lets stop the collective despair about the 3G business case. If the business case rested on untried new services two years ago, it no longer does so today. Now lets focus on getting all the best content providers and application developers involved with the operators and equipment vendors, so that the 3G cake will be bigger and better for all. That is what the industry needs now. The time for doom and gloom is over.