Will 2009 Be the Year of MMS?


Communications applications and platforms tend over time to move between the consumer and business sectors. In the case of mobile messaging, the movement -- in this case a migration from consumer to business -- may accelerate because the service fits nicely into the broad umbrella of unified communications (UC). UC is hot-or, as hot as anything can be in the current environment-and a platform carrying that label is likely to get a good deal of attention.


Short messaging service (SMS) took off when ways were found for different systems to communicate across carrier networks. Until that point, SMS was a parochial service constrained by the wide moats between carriers. Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) hopes to take the same path to prosperity. This Wireless Week item says the CTIA's Wireless Internet Caucus has released a document, Final Set of Use Cases and Call Flows, that will help to create a spec by the third quarter of next year.


The definition of MMS is pretty self-explanatory, but this piece does a good job of providing a more detailed description. MMS is a product of the Open Mobile Alliance, though it has its roots in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) groups. The writer provides a thumbnail history of MMS and a good description of how messages are handled. Challenges to MMS include "content adaptation"-the category into which the author places cross-platform compatibility-distribution lists, handset configurations and "push" delivery content. The piece ends with a list of the 12 protocols used by MMS messages.


Frost & Sullivan appears to conflate the SMS and MMS markets, and suggests that the combined group is growing. The firm says volumes are more than doubling annually and the North American mobile market is experiencing rapid growth, enlarging by a factor of three -- from $24.84 billion to $76.45 billion-between 2007 and 2014. The release, in what seems to be something of a contradiction, says that while the MMS market will be profitable in the short term, it will be challenged by wireless e-mail and wireless instant messaging. Mobile carriers can handle the competition, the release says, by adjusting their rates. While the MMS segment is smaller than the SMS segment, it is growing far more quickly. The piece says that it will eventually beat it in subscriber percentage, revenue and unit growth sales.


The race to provide cross-platform multimedia messaging will be a good one, since the winners will garner significant revenues. Earlier this month, TriPlay introduced what it said is the first such service. CellMates uses a Firefox add-on TConnect to enable the transmission and reception of text, photos and video on a variety of networks and platforms. CellMates, which is aimed at consumers, costs 8 cents per message.


Portio Research says that SMS will continue to be the dominant revenue generator among messaging platforms, largely because of an absence of a cheaper alternative. By 2013, the firm predicts, 60 percent of the $224 billion will be in non-voice revenue. The market is worth $130 billion this year. U.S. use, after a slow start, now is double that of Europe. Chinese users send 100 messages each month. That's a lot-except compared to the Filipinos, who send an average of 755 messages each.


Cross-platform multimedia messaging for business is a mouthful. And, as unified communications continues to grow, it also just may be one of the bigger stories of the year ahead.