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Is 3G delivering on its promise?

I have recently read a very good post from the guys at The Mobile Technology Weblog titled “Killer Apps Wanted for 3G“.

In this article 3g operators are depicted as still looking to find the “killer application that will eventually make 3G services repay the investment the carriers have made in infrastructure”.

This is somehow true. It seems that the penetration of the video call service is still very low and the usage of other applications is still very low. One of the point raised in the article is that there is a problem with the pricing of these services. Basically they are too high. I have to agree on this. If we look at most data plans available in 3G the pricing for general data traffic is quite high.

This is really the first point to address. Prices have to be fair enough to push the customer to use new services available under a 3G network.

There is something interesting to be noticed. We have a lot of operators trying to bring internet services to mobile (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, MSN, Yahoo, etc. etc.). Some of these services have not yet proven to be profitable in fixed internet and I wonder under what basis we may think they may be profitable under a mobile connection.

Quite provocative, isn’t it? Yes it is, but I think that they may be profitable if prices will be good enough. Operators will need to look at these services as a whole and not as single services. They have to bring in money as a whole. Customers will not accept pay per use or pay per event just like sms or mms. The only solution for these services is to have a decent, flat monthly data fee. No other option.

The next big issue that I see is that most of these services are not built to be run on a mobile device. If you want to make your services worth to be used you will need to rethink them well enough to make them simple to use. Huge problem still to be solved.

The last big thing about mobile 3G services is that they need to become much more social than they are today. While I’m using these service on my mobile phone I do not want to generically browse the internet just as if I am sitting on my PC. I want to keep in touch with those people who are my social neighborhood. Just them and a decent web browser is all that I need.

Sorry to insist on this but the contact list is what makes these services alive and this is why I love the guys at Jaiku so much.

This bring us to the next point in the article: “there is no killer app for 3G, it will take a variety of services and applications to attract different people”.

This is absolutely true and this also the reason why you will want to have flat data rates to fit all of the customer needs.

There is one interesting point here. These kind of services have to extend operator wide to be successful. I do not want to loose a social connection with one of my friends simply why he is sitting on a different operator. These services need to be available across all operator and technologies.

It seems that we have come to a scaring scenario. Isn’t this what fixed internet is today? Probably yes.

Will mobile operators will be the ISP of the future? Again, probably yes.

This is really scaring for all of them.

Why do I blog this? I have spent lot of time in the last few years looking to that killer app and it has been as difficult as the quest for the Holy Grail. Probably we need to stop the search.

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