Sex, soccer and horoscopes

It's official. Sex sells. This won't come as any surprise, I'm sure, especially when I tell you I'm talking about the Italian market, but really you'd have hoped there was more to 3G than just sex. And soccer.

It's official. Sex sells.

This won't come as any surprise, I'm sure, especially when I tell you I'm talking about the Italian market, but really you'd have hoped there was more to 3G than just sex. And soccer. Sex and soccer. Let me explain.

I've just been in Italy visiting the country's third-placed mobile phone company, Wind. Because it's number three in the market, Wind works hard at being innovative and is gaining some market share on its larger rivals. It still makes a fair chunk of its income, though, from the text message market. In fact, 12% of its revenue comes from SMS. The bulk of that income is from horoscopes, ring tones, soccer updates and, of course, sex. Tips, tricks, how to find it, where to go, what to do when you get there. Textual intercourse, it seems, is alive and well and living in the Old Country.

Actually, it's not just Italy -- right across Europe the stats are the same, says Wind, and even in Japan indications are the users are doing the same things on their phones. Roughly 50% of the traffic can be accounted for under the same headings: sex, soccer, horoscopes.

It's similar to the pay-TV model, says Wind. People say they want documentaries and news, but they really watch sport and sex. Entertainment is the key to market share for both sectors and that will only increase with the move to faster traffic speeds on a 3G network.

While I'm sure a business case could be made for rolling out 3G network services solely on the basis of getting a date, there are other aspects of the entertainment world that should be considered and which will, no doubt, play as great a part in the 3G content market place.

Music, for example, is a good fit. Your phone is already something you hold up to your ear, or listen to through a headset, so why not make the most of that? Ericsson has launched its music service

M-use in Switzerland and has received considerable interest from network providers around the world. Users can listen to songs, watch video clips -- if their phones are up to the challenge -- and use the music as their ring tone. Get the digital rights management issues (and charges) sorted out and the user will be allowed to download the song as well.

The model Wind users for sharing revenue with content providers is interesting as well. It charges a joining fee for each service and a monthly fee which is split with the content providers. They get 80% and Wind keeps the last 20%, along with any traffic charges that are incurred. That way everyone gets a bite of the cherry: content providers get enough that they're encouraged to develop more content and the network operator gets some cash and access to more content from the developers. Hopefully the end users are happy because they're getting the kinds of services they want. With a 3G network they'll be able to get richer content, like music and video footage, and no doubt sex will be playing as much a part in the market then as it always has.

Brislen, Computerworld Online's reporter, travelled to Italy courtesy of Ericsson.

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