Who Needs More Education? Subscribers Or Operators?
By Mike Masnick, Wed May 11 22:45:00 GMT 2005

With operators pushing advanced new data services, two separate studies show that most people don't know or don't care about these offerings. Obviously, some education is needed -- but is it customer education or should the operators be listening to what people are telling them?

Some things never seem to change. Mobile operators have been pushing out new data services for years now, often without really considering how the market would react -- which has resulted in some massive failures. Two new studies suggest that more initiatives are bound to have trouble.

First, is a general study in the UK showing that 85% of people have never heard of 3G. This seems exceptionally high, considering the number of 3G services available, the amount of money put into those services, and even the fact that one of those services is named "3."

Second, at the same time that a mobile broadcast system launches in the UK, nearly 90% of respondents to a new study say they have no interest in a phone that can receive broadcast TV. Others have suggested the same thing in the past, but that hasn't stopped efforts around the globe to build mobile TV broadcast systems.

Both of these findings may be an issue of "education." Usually when people talk about education in the marketplace, they mean educating the consumers about these new services. However, maybe the education should go in the other direction this time: teaching the operators what people look for in a mobile data service. Clearly, there's a bit of a disconnect between what users are looking for in their phones, and what the operators are providing. Most people look to mobile service as a communication platform, and not a content delivery platform. No matter how much educating is done, if people don't perceive a need for watching broadcast content over a phone, it's not going to happen. The second, more important, issue, is that almost no killer app has been designed from the top down. Very few killer apps are thought of as killer apps when developed. It's often a flexible platform that lets someone create a solution to something where there's a clear, immediate need -- and it just takes off from there. However, rather than letting that happen, operators are keeping things closed and coming up with top down solutions that seem more designed to boost ARPU than solve a real need.

Instead of pushing all of these apps, and then hoping to convince subscribers that it's worth paying for them, why not open up the platform and encourage everyone to create the applications and services that they need? Then, the market evolves in a way that people actually want, and operators can stop throwing money and ideas against the wall, hoping something sticks. Let everyone determine what works on their own. That would be an education program that works.