3 Opens Up, But Just A Tiny Bit
By Carlo Longino, Thu Sep 09 17:45:00 GMT 2004

It's not tearing down the walls, more like just cracking a window open: 3 will allow a dozen outside content providers to deliver ringtones and games via WAP push.

Just a couple weeks after one of its executives said people that want open Net access on their mobile phones are "nuts", 3 UK will open up its walled garden -- just a smidge. The carrier will allow 12 content providers and aggregators access to its users, so they can buy content like tones and games via premium SMS and WAP push. It says it will also open up to smaller providers next year.

The 3 exec that made the previous comment didn't seem to realize that there are a host of applications -- and more importantly, potential revenues -- the operator is shutting itself off from by keeping its network closed. Downloadable ringtones are the most basic, fundamental and well-known mobile data application. They're taken for granted by most users, and any carrier in a market as mature as the UK that does anything to stand between users and the content they want, and that they're willing to pay for, won't go too far.

Such high demand for this content makes even just a cut of the premium SMS fees from Java and ringtone downloads low hanging fruit. 3 is finally picking some of the cash that's hanging right above its head. This is just the first crack in the wall, but one that might help bring it down eventually.

Most carriers have realized that denying users access to things they want isn't the way to go. Sure, there's a risk they won't buy their content from the carrier, but the bigger risk is that they'll leave for another operator, one that will let them access what they want, as soon as they can. At that point, what's better for a carrier, particularly a new one -- taking a full cut of nothing, or a partial cut of something?