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5/6 years ago the mobile operators battled it out over the new 3G licenses…the winners ended up forking out a combined some past £20bn for the right to use the radio spectrum. This allowed them to each build an entirely new phone network as the 3G spectrum could not be utilised with existing technology. So much investment and yet it all seemed like its based on the idea we will all very soon want to download masses of data.

Here’s the problem: no single operator could afford to not get a license – there were no proven applications or business models to prove 3G would be a money spinner so this massive investment is just to stay in the business of providing phone services in the future.

Cameras were put into phones in the hope that it would stimulate the handset market and make use of the improved data rates from GPRS and 3G. Users could send photos to each other and the operators would cash in. Has this really happened? In my experience people take photos and either keep them on their phone, use Bluetooth to share them or download them to their PCs so they can manipulate, store or share them. If this is true on a wider scale, then the operators were foolish. The handsets are heavily subsidised so we can all get good deals and yet they are more expensive than ever to produce because of the complexity involved. There’s something wrong here…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for amazing mobile services and full video-calling but the path to all of that is a mess. Aside from recouping the 3G investments & subsidising phones, the business model has not lead to high data usage outside of the business community. Paying by the MB does not make sense to the average Joe. Internet users have been used to a flat rate model for years now – why not apply this to mobiles and get the mobile users on the Internet?

Once there are people using the mobile web developers will be focussed on providing more compelling experiences. Until then, it is a difficult model to assess for many businesses and developers for that matter. To develop for both the ‘conventional’ web and the subset for mobiles needs many skills and a flexible publishing system that can cater for different devices. We’re a way off that. While content management systems are becoming more widely used, they deal with very complex issues over digital assets, workflow and content editing and don not yet address the issues over publishing to multiple devices – this is where the challenge is…

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31st May, 2006