Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Commoditizing SMS?

Given that short message service is a high margin product delivering between a third and half of most mobile operators’ profits, STL Partners wonders what threat third party providers might represent. Alternative services allow users to connect to a third party gateway over the Internet (using GPRS, 3G, or Wi-Fi) and send text messages affordably.

Service provider execs who remain optimistic about keeping the business say users are too lazy or indifferent to the cost of SMS to switch. A general shift towards IM features will moderate costs and provide a richer alternative. There will be spam and privacy issues. And service providers will just drop prices if they have to.

Executives seeing a larger threat suggested that messaging will be embedded in third party applications, notably social networking services, and that operators will lose control of the context from which messages are initiated — as well as the revenue.

The STL graphic shows the percentage of business lost to third party providers in five years.

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