Operators are hoping Euro 2004 and the Olympic Games will be the drivers to make 2004 the year when MMS really takes off. But are operators ready for the delivery of mass market numbers of MMS? And is the public aware that it is expected to take part in this orgy of MMS later this year?
Sicap's head of marketing Per-Johan Lundin believes operators are, in general, ready to send out large numbers of MMS to subscribers signing up for updates, clips and news from Portugal or Athens. In any case, if they are not, he advocates a bulk MMS delivery platform Sicap is touting to European mobile operators.
But he is more concerned that consumers may not be so ready to partake in this sports-fuelled orgy of MMS. Research from Sicap has found that 82% of all UK mobile subscribers have never sent an MMS.
And it's not rocket science as to why. The two main reasons are not knowing how to send an MMS, and confusion over how much it will cost.
"We in the industry are doing it again," he said, referring to the industry's emphasis on technology rather than services. "We have a constant tendency to misjudge the market and how quick it will be. Even our experience with SMS shows that it is only in relatively recent years that it has taken off," Lundin said.
Lundin said that getting as many MMS compatible handsets into the market as possible would be important, and added that he thought the industry had now "largely sorted out" interoperability issues at the network level.
But MMS is not just about photo messaging, and other types of person to person content. Sports events lend themselves perfectly to application to person messaging.
To enable this operators need an infrastructure that will allow them to send large numbers of MMS across the network near-simultaneously.
Sicap has launched a bulk MMS solution that, by prioritising the messages, Lundin said, will enable operators to send out a large amount of MMS without congestion.
But pinning hopes on sport to drive MMS may not be the wisest route, according to others in the industry. A source at Mobile Cohesion said that operators needed to broaden the scope of the communities of interest they could attract with MMS.
Mobile Cohesion markets a platform that enables operators to manage large numbers of content providers.
"You can talk about sports and news services, Morgan told Mobile Europe, "but not everyone is interested in sport, and in any case that keeps operators with just five or six content providers."
"We are talking about being able to address multiple communities with multiple mobile content providers --- whatever area of interest they serve."
The implication for mobile operators is that not only do they need to have the infrastructure in place to deliver large numbers of MMS, they need their own partner management platforms to be in place.
Sicap product manager Thomas Kienle said that technical integration of network elements is not the hard part. Most integration challenges come on the process side.
"The problem is more in changing process, changing the authorisation process and information input, content flows, billing in real time, the whole integration into legacy systems," Kienle said.