A disastrous experiment by Deutsche Telekom's cellular phone unit over the past week put many mobile phones out of action and plagued thousands of other users with 'mobile spam'.
T-Mobil chose Cebit, Europe's largest technology show with around 600,000 visitors, to trial a pioneering service broadcasting news, travel, and local information to mobile phones around the showground.
But the trial was plagued by technical problems, temporarily freezing some mobiles by flooding them with indecipherable text and bombarding thousands of others with unwanted messages.
Deutsche Telekom confirmed that the trial service had not been working as planned.
"Right now there are some technical problems," said Rainer Breibart, a representative from the T-Mobil trial. Breibart admitted his own phone had been jammed by "cryptical figures."
Users can switch off broadcasts using their mobile phones, but T-Mobil's Breibart conceded that this is a rather complicated procedure. The Nokia 8110, for example, requires 16 key strokes to disable broadcast services.
"It is rather complicated at this time, because it is a fairly new service and a lot of customers will be surprised that they have got the messages," he said.
Even when the German language messages were received correctly, the voice services indexed in the messages were not actually available to overseas customers. Four out of five visitors to Cebit are from outside Germany.
Industry analysts say that while there are relatively few of these services in operation today, they will become more widespread as mobile phones and networks become more sophisticated.
"Expect to see more of these services," said Mary Ann O'Loughlin, principal analyst at London based consultancy Ovum. "Mobile operators are looking for more opportunities to create traffic on networks and generate more revenues."
However, as more messaging services are launched, the mobile networks could follow the same destiny as the Internet, where unsolicited advertising messages - called spam - are commonplace, O'Loughlin warned.
"It brings up another regulatory aspect - the issue of basically spamming people on their phones," she said.
There are not mobile broadcasting services in the UK, but all mobile operators offer short messaging services (SMS) enabling text message transfer between users on the same network. Cellnet offers news, sport and other information via its Genie service, that uses SMS.
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