Lower costs push up MMS usage in the Philippines

Von Melissa P.

The significant drop in prices of mobile phone units capable of handling multimedia applications has substantially increased the use of multimedia messaging services (MMS) in the Philippines.

Ferdinand dela Cruz, head of Globe Telecom Inc.?s wireless business division, disclosed that the number of subscribers to its MMS-based services grew from 100,000 in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2004.

The higher usage was also fueled by the availability of cheaper handsets that support General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), a faster mobile network technology.

Dela Cruz said the growth of MMS in relation to Globe?s overall value-added services in the country is doing ?very well.? At present, value-added services contribute around 4 percent to Globe?s total annual revenues.

Catching Up

While downloading mobile phone ring tones and various icons remains Globe?s biggest revenue source, Dela Cruz noted that MMS usage is fast catching up as an income generator.

?Many subscribers have already either traded in their old phones for camera phones or have purchased plans that come with free or discounted camera phone units,? he said. ?Filipinos are just naturally fond of taking pictures and then sharing them with others.?

Pointing out that there are many opportunities available for current MMS/GPRS users, Dela Cruz believes Globe is clearly ?ahead in this market? compared with rivals Smart Communications and Sun Cellular.

?Most of our subscribers own MMS/GPRS-capable phones,? he said.

Globe expects the increase in interactive content to further boost the usage of MMS in the Philippines. Already, one of the company?s content providers introduced a location-based service for a gaming application early this year.

?This will add a whole new dimension to mobile gaming,? said Dela Cruz, who, however, declined to disclose details regarding Globe?s upcoming interactive content that would soon be launched in the local market.

Dela Cruz noted the huge opportunity in the mass-based content market whose applications are essentially SMS or text-driven. ?People will see more GPRS applications and video streaming,? he said.

As market penetration for mobile phone users reaches 40 percent this year, Globe?s expects the subscriber base rate to slow down for all telecommunications carriers. Thus, the company?s plan is to push more content and services to drive the usage of mobile services in the next 12 to 18 months.

?We won?t be seeing the same subscriber growth rate we?ve had over the past few years, so we really need to have more activities that will drive usage instead,? said Dela Cruz.