Vodafone Frees Up MMS in Australia
By Eric Lin, Mon Jul 05 07:00:00 GMT 2004

Vodafone Australia is joining the ranks of carriers who have offered free MMS to boost messaging. In Vodafone's case, the offer could also be an attempt to boost flagging subscriber numbers as well.

Although Vodafone Australia claims that MMS have doubled on its network in the past four weeks, it is still taking steps to further increase traffic. Vodafone will offer its subscribers free MMS (which it calls PXT) until the end of September. Normally Australian carriers charge about 75 cents (0.53 US Dollars) to send an MMS.

Networks that have offered free MMS periods in the past have typically experienced large increases in message traffic during the periods, however none have reported how these offers effect traffic once MMS are no longer free. The closest figures come from TeliaSonera. Instead of offering free MMS all the time, it is only offering free messages to Swedish subscribers on the weekends. The offer began in February and will end mid-August. At the end of the first quarter, TeliaSonera reported MMS on the weekends had increased several hundred percent. During the week, when subscribers are still charged SEK 2.90 ($0.39) per message, traffic has increased 30 percent.

Vodafone Chief Marketing Officer, Ian Scherger, is hoping that the promotion increases MMS traffic 1000% over the promotional period. While networks have consistently reported large MMS traffic increases during promotions, 1000 percent is still quite high. It could be that Vodafone is also hoping the extended promotion will draw new subscribers. Last quarter Vodafone Australia reported a loss of almost 200,000 subscribers, though it claims much of that is due to housecleaning of inactive accounts. Even so, getting their subscriber numbers back in black still will be a priority. Free MMS and a nice portfolio of capable handsets could help provided MMS is what Australian subscribers want.