Mobile Operators Start To Open Up Payment Options
By Mike Masnick, Mon Jun 28 20:15:00 GMT 2004

The mobile operators aren't known for being the most willing to open up their systems, but they're slowly getting it through their heads that easier payment mechanisms should lead to more usage.

It sometimes seems like mobile operators will never fully understand the concept that by making systems more open, they'll encourage more use. Instead, they continually cling to their closed systems, hoping that if they get a piece of every transaction in that smaller pie it will make a lot more sense than getting part of a much, much larger pie.

It's only taken five years or so, but it appears mobile operators are finally realizing that it might make sense to offer WAP billing for third parties, so not all companies wanting to offer fee-based content need to go through the operator's portal or use a convoluted premium SMS system.

Over in the UK, both Orange and Vodafone are opening up their third party WAP billing options to make it much easier for third parties to set up the ability to charge for their own content without having to jump through a variety of carrier-placed hurdles (or having their users jump through such hurdles). O2 and T-Mobile are expected to follow shortly. What will be interesting, however, is to see what content providers do with it. Just because it will be easier to charge for content, doesn't necessarily mean content providers will be able to offer what users are willing to pay for.

In fact, it looks like the carriers aren't fully opening up either. Vodafone is still hedging a bit, by pointing out that even with their new, more open, WAP billing system they hope to keep out the riff raff: "This isn't for any off-the-street content provider but for substantial, credible aggregators." Until the carriers open up some more and realize that the content providers and the end-users are going to figure out what's worth paying for on their mobile phones, they're going to keep the market limited. They may believe they have control, but it's of a much smaller than necessary market.