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An overview of the Estonian SMS market

I’m really excited to bring you the first in a series of posts about Estonia. Marino Bresciani responded to my call for contributors this week and took up the challenge. The first missive is a an overview of the marketplace and a look at how SMS is being used across the country. Over to you Marino!

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Hi there,

Starting a post on a new blog can be a tricky challenge, especially when there is a need for introductions from my side. As a worker in the IT field, but most of all, passionate in everything that concerns mobile services, I therefore need to start telling you a bit about where I come from and why I live here.

My name is Marino, and as you can imagine from my name, I come from Italy. Nevertheless, I am now living in Estonia since almost two years. Among various personal and professional reasons, as fanatic of mobiles, there are some good reasons to tell why life here in Estonia can be a little bit more enjoyable than everywhere else.

Short background: Estonia (Google Map) is one of the most wired and wireless countries in Central and Eastern Europe, with Internet penetration of over 40% and mobile penetration of over 60%. However, in the field of mobile value-added services, Estonia has achieved some remarkable results. Some of those services have been more successful in Estonia than in other Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, perhaps even more successful than bigger neighbours like Finland and Sweden.

Estonia was the first country in the world to have mobile positioning in commercial use and one of the first to have 112-emergency calls linked with mobile positioning system to determine the origin of each call. Since 2002, Estonia has launched several successful mobile commerce projects, and it is currently seen as a real test-bed for mobile services by some leading mobile infrastructure providers.

There are several mobile value-added services via voice and data, but if we want to limit ourselves, in this case, to SMS services, what is actually possible to achieve?

Well, at the moment, there are services that are already developed in many other countries, plus some surprises. So, if you are in Estonia, with a SMS you can:

  • pay for parking
  • pay for bus ticket

You can also:

  • borrow a book from the state libraries, or postpone its deadline for return
  • ask for a small loan
  • take a snapshot of yourself with a photocamera located in the town hall squares, and get the picture delivered to your own mailbox
  • participate in online auctions (see an example)
  • buy credits for browser-based or role-play games
  • inform the city hall with information about broken traffic lights or street lamps
  • if you are cross-country skiing in the night (yes, many Estonians do that!), turn on the lights of the skiing path
  • … and of course, order all sorts of mobile content (ringtones, logos, etc)

Some of the services do not require any sort of registration, and they can be used by any user with a Estonian card (even prepaid).  For some other services, instead, it is necessary to register first the mobile number to an opportune website, in order to permit the system to link each single user to a single mobile number.

Anyhow, last year, the Estonian government launched a new service called Mobile-ID, which links any mobile contract (therefore, no prepaid cards) to the user’s National Tax Number.  This way, user have the possibility to use their own mobile as a interactive device to authenticate themselves into e-services like online bank accounts, or to digitally sign their own documents.

In the next weeks I will try to focus on the most innovative SMS services that are already available or soon to be launched, and how effective they are. Hoping that they can be source of inspiration for more and more interesting services.

Till next,

M.

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Excellent stuff Marino — I look forward to the next entry!

If you’ve got questions for Marino about the Estonian marketplace, post them here or mail me.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

6 replies on “An overview of the Estonian SMS market”

That's very interesting. I love the idea of paying for parking through SMS (and of course turning on the ski course lights is awesome). How does that work exactly? Does someone just text a specific number with a message or is it more intricate than that?

Hi Marino,

I have a first generation iphone from the US. If I unlock it, Is it possible for me to sign up with a mobile service like emt and have full functionality with data and visual voicemail?

60 percent penetration is a low penetration rate not a high one as you imply here.
In fact, Estonia has over 120 percent mobile penetration, I don't know where you're getting your figures but they're incorrect.

60 percent penetration is a low penetration rate not a high one as you imply here.
In fact, Estonia has over 120 percent mobile penetration, I don't know where you're getting your figures but they're incorrect.

60 percent penetration is a low penetration rate not a high one as you imply here.
In fact, Estonia has over 120 percent mobile penetration, I don't know where you're getting your figures but they're incorrect.

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