Mohan Sadashiva

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The Importance of Mobile Content Portability

Making your mobile content truly mobile

For mobile content portability to reach its full potential, it will take more than a simple declaration of "Hey, consumers want this." It really needs to benefit the entire ecosystem. Fortunately, wireless carriers and content developers are starting to become aware of how mobile content portability can directly benefit them.

Content Provider Benefits
Content providers stand to gain a great deal from mobile content portability. Market research has shown that as low as 13% of users re-purchase the same content when they upgrade to a new phone. Thus, today a phone upgrade event is actually a negative for content providers as their customers are forced to remember what content they purchased, and then go through the complicated process of finding and re-purchasing each piece of content on their new device. For many, the process is complicated enough that they simply don't bother, resulting in lost subscriptions and revenue leakage for developers. Mobile content portability will safeguard revenues for content developers and ensure that they are not left behind when their customers upgrade.

Another important consideration for purchased content on mobile phones is that due to copyright and DRM considerations, content cannot be simply copied over like user-generated content. A successful mobile content portability application for licensed content needs to include a seamless method to arbitrate any digital rights associated with the licensed content.

The phone upgrade process is a prime opportunity to offer targeted recommendations and promotions to mobile users based on past usage and purchase history. Thus, an indirect benefit of mobile content portability is that content providers will have an extra leveraged opportunity to upgrade and upsell content to their users. Combined, mobile content portability turns what currently is a negative event for content developers into a strong positive, enabling them to sell additional content and drive revenue growth.

Carrier Benefits
For carriers, supporting mobile portability can be an important selling point in building customer loyalty, improving customer retention, and attracting new customers in today's competitive mobile marketplace. Otherwise, carrier competition is generally limited to device selection, price, and network coverage. Mobile content portability can tip the balance at the store and make the customer's purchase or upgrade decision easy, driving phone upgrades and saving both time spent on customer support and the customer's own time.

One of the biggest benefits to carriers will become very clear as carriers migrate to newer 3G/4G networks. Once the new networks are operational, the carrier will want an easy and quick way to migrate their customers to the new network so that they don't have to maintain legacy technology for any longer than they have to. Mobile content portability will be a key factor to the success of any mass customer technology migration initiative.

Mobile content portability will also ultimately make it easier for consumers to access and share content with the Internet. In this sense, the concept expands beyond being able to transfer content to include the access content from anywhere, anytime. Such an ideal could really open up the mobile market to new content purchases as mobile phone users develop a sense of attachment and ownership for their content, ultimately leading to increased ARPU for carriers.

Successful Mobile Content Portability
What will a mobile content portability solution need to become ultimately successful? First of all, many of the current solutions are geared toward smartphone users. Although smartphones are a rapidly growing part of the mobile market, the number of smartphones in use (an estimated 118 million shipped in 2007, according to a Gartner report) is still dwarfed by the total of 1 billion mobile phones of all types shipped that same year. A successful mobile content portability solution needs to support most, if not all, of a carrier's models, both smartphone and non-smartphone.

The solution needs to be simple enough that the effort to transfer the content is significantly easier than what is needed to re-create the content. The content transfer portion of the solution could be offered at the point of sale as a simple handset plug-n-play operation handled by an in-store rep, or be simple enough to be downloaded and run by the subscriber on the phone. Another possible approach would be to include the solution pre-packaged and pre-configured with a new mobile phone. For the content, the digital rights arbitration would require close cooperation with content developers to ensure that their content is properly supported.

With mobile number portability now widely accepted and implemented, consumers need mobile content portability as the next natural step in order to completely fulfill the promise of the mobile phone as the center for social and professional communication. Although the technology is available, it will take a well-thought out implementation of that technology with broad platform and model support plus the full support of mobile carriers and content providers to make any implementation a success. However, that success will be worthwhile as it will benefit all parties involved.

More Stories By Mohan Sadashiva

Mohan Sadashiva is the senior vice president of marketing for FusionOne, a leading provider of mobile content portability solutions.

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