Tuesday, June 20, 2006

US cellphone start-ups struggle as multimedia services slow to catch on

A wave of US cellphone start-ups that were counting on TV, music and other premium services to attract users are floundering.

Among the companies struggling to sign up customers: Mobile ESPN, a venture backed by Walt Disney, and Amp'd Mobile, a youth-oriented wireless start-up backed by Viacom, Vivendi and a bunch of venture capital jocks.

They should all read the tea leaves more carefully and examine the European market, which is more similar to the US. Europe, unlike Japan and South Korea, has been slow to adopt to mobile data services as the US is proving.

And until hi-speed mobile networks are widely spread across the US and Europe multimedia services will be chronically slow to take off. Plus mobile operators of all kinds need to figure out how to deliver all you can eat data plans - no one wants to pay a fee every time they use advanced services and mobile data services in general are way too expensive.

An ad based free to view model is the only hope for mass market take-off and until it is in place operators may as well get used to a long, slow haul.

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