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MMS NOT INCLUDED – a classic operator mistake?

In the first of his columns, regular Mobile Industry Review reader Neil Ramsay gets stuck into multimedia messaging. Over to you Neil:

– – – – –

Remember when you were a kid, rushing excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to unwrap and play with your newest toy only to be reduced to a tearful mess by the words BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED on the box?

Fast forward a few years and the realisation that the alcohol available on your all inclusive holiday is more suited to being a tool for arson or used as paint stripper brings tears of a different sort to your eyes.

What’s my point you may ask, what has this got to do with mobile? My point is that it’s the small things in life that matter most. In the examples above you didn’t care about the shiny red fire engine, or the fact you were going to come home two stones heavier due to all the free food. It was what wasn’t included that mattered the most, and that’s the same in mobile.

Let’s assume you’re on some kind of monthly contract, you will have minutes, texts and data all neatly supplied in a nice little bundle. For most people this will be more than they will ever use in a month, but you happily pay for it knowing that your bill will be the same, month in month out. Never again the horrors of the past, where every month opening your mobile bill was an exercise in fear and anticipation.

But wait, my bill isn’t £35 this month, it’s nearer £40. Hmm, I’ve haven’t been abroad, phoned any premium numbers or voted on the X Factor. What could it be?

Sent any picture messages, a picture of the new baby, pet or car? Maybe you were on holiday and wanted to share the sights with your friends.

MMS NOT INCLUDED

Of all the major UK operators only Orange and only in their Panther packages include 50 MMS in their contracts.

Bundles are available from:

O2: £5.11 for 50
Orange: £5.00 for 50
Vodafone: £3.00 for 100

Otherwise every MMS will cost you a minimum of 20p and a maximum of 36p depending on operator and contract.

Why are operators now trying to nickel and dime us on this? Vodafone used to include them in the Hero plans, O2 previously let you use them as part of your text allocation at a ratio of 4 SMS for 1 MMS, Orange let you use their 2010 era Canary text allowance on a 1:1 ratio.

Perhaps faced with falling termination charges and roaming price caps operators are only trying to recoup some profits?

Here’s where I see a problem with this strategy: Today’s customers have more options than ever before. As Apple are wont to say “there’s an app for that”.

Applications like WhatsApp and soon to be launched iMessage will cut deeply into revenue streams from MMS and that’s only the beginning. Once your operator has annoyed you by charging for MMS and you’ve discovered a way to bypass those charges, chances are you will start looking for other ways to save money.

With applications that do SMS and VOIP for calls, before too long customers will be looking for a data plan with 0 mins, 0 txts and using an app for everything.

Where will the operators be then, reduced to their worst fear, dumb pipes?

And all because MMS NOT INCLUDED.

– – – – –

I totally agree Neil. It’s these small things that really do wind people up. You can follow Neil at @TheNeilRamsay on Twitter or visit his musings online at talkinmobile.com.

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