The managing director of Vodafone?s data services division yesterday admitted that mobile data has been overhyped and that the promised ?pent-up? demand has not materialised.
Richard Jarvis, managing director of Vodafone?s value added services division, which numbers British Gas as a major customer, said: ?The industry thought between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of [GSM] subscribers would be data subscribers. The fact is, today on Vodafone, as well as other networks, the figure is three per cent. This is not for want of trying.?
He believes growth in SMS (short messaging service) is more satisfactory, ?but it?s not stupendous?.
?Sadly manufacturers and network operators are pushing [demand] rather than customers pulling,? said Jarvis. ?Mobile data is a means to an end and it needs applications. Internet access is not an application."
Supplier obsession with mobile Internet access, at the expense of other uses, is one factor to blame, believes Jarvis.
Others are the lack of solid industry standards, the absence of standards for testing products, and confusion among users between marketing trials and full blown services.
Jarvis did commend the industry for recognising weaknesses in tools for the PCMCIA comms interface, and for developing integrated communications devices.
He believes the main target users should be blue collar workers, and called for service providers to improve quality of service and develop ?proper? tariffs, rather than superficial marketing based pricing.
Vodafone also called for operators to ensure SMS messages can be sent between different networks. Taking a sideswipe at rival Orange, which is busy promoting the use of mobile networks to zap graphics, Tony Riley, the SMS unit's sales and marketing director, said: "We should not worry about transmitting video and graphics, but concentrate on today's applications."
Jarvis and Riley were speaking as the company launched the Vodafone Manufacturers? Programme to test and accredit tools for its GSM network. Vodafone claims it is the first such initiative in the UK and is supported by 40 mobile device vendors, including Motorola, Panasonic and Psion Dacom.
The programme forms part of Vodafone?s Counts - customer oriented universal network test service - initiative, which aims to make 10 million data and SMS test calls a year.
Currently, four phones are placed around the Vodafone exchange to make SMS calls every five minutes. The performance of third party mobile data devices as well as the network are monitored and analysed. The company claims some vendors have adjusted their products as a result.
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