New Promotions For a New Type of Call
By Eric Lin, Thu Oct 14 23:00:00 GMT 2004

If voice is still the killer app, what about voice and images? 3G carriers have begun efforts to promote video calling among subscribers.

Despite 3 UK's promotion of video calls when it launched, the service never really took off. Eventually even 3 recognized the lack of interest and shifted its campaign to other features. The slow adoption of video calling is not something unique to 3, it is a problem for all 3G carriers. The problem is not cost alone, because no matter how much carriers cut the price, the feature was still underused. Now operators are taking new approaches, promoting video calls with compelling examples, not just price cuts.

Upon launch of its 3G network earlier this week, KPN made sure that it wasn't just new subscibers who could make video calls. It recognized that one of the primary barriers to popularizing video calls was actually having someone else to call. So along with launching 3G handsets, it also launched a PC application that turns a computer with a webcam into a virtual handset, capable of making video calls. In addition, KPN is offering a price promotion similar to what 3 has offered, charging the same for a video call as a voice call until the end of the year.

3 UK is also learning from past disappointments and is launching a promotion of its own beyond mere price cuts. 3's latest effort, the end of the blind date, encourages single 3 subscribers to record a short video personal ad on their handset and send it to a special number. Then visitors to the website or a special installation at Selfridges department store in London can vote for the top 100 submissions. Each of the winners will make a short video call to each of the other contestants of the opposite sex at a live event, and matches will be paired off to meet face to face there.

Instead of directly giving users someone to make a video to, NTT DoCoMo is gently persuading subscribers to make video calls by showing them a television drama full of characters making them for a variety of reasons. DoCoMo is offering FOMA subscribers text and video content from a popular Japanese drama called "Love Seasons." The clips focus on characters making video calls to friends and family for a variety of reasons throughout the show's season. Then, to encourage users to follow in the fictional footsteps of the characters, DoCoMo subscribers can sign up for video calling at a 500 yen discount for two months.

As penetration of video-capable handsets increases, the problem of video calling shifts from who to call to why to call. The ability to make a video is so new that users simply haven't adopted the mindset that they can make them. Carriers will need to continue to illustrate compelling situations for these calls until subscribers can be convinced to think of reasons for themselves.