T-Mobil AG, the wireless service unit of Germany's incumbent operator, Deutsche Telekom AG, said Friday that it will start offering multimedia messaging service (MMS) from today.
T-Mobil will become one of the first operators outside of Japan to offer the high-tech evolution of the phenomenally popular short message service (SMS) technology, which has so far accounted for the build up of data service revenue generated by GSM network operators.
J-Phone Ltd and KDDI Inc, the two smaller rival of Japan's NTT DoCoMo, have enjoyed some success with their early variants of MMS, which the companies have both promoted by selling as an adjunct to handsets that incorporate digital cameras. The two companies have credited this new image-based dimension to messaging with enabling them to claw back market share form DoCoMo, which was slower to realize the appeal of camera-phones.
In Europe, T-Mobil is the first to enter service with a full MMS platform, and is taking its lead from its Japanese counterparts by supporting the service with camera-enabled phones. In this case the Sony Ericsson T68i, which has an add-on camera module, and the Nokia 7650 which has an embedded digital camera, will be offered to MMS users at heavily discounted prices: 299.95 euros ($295.87) and 349.95 euros ($345.19) respectively.
As a further sweetener, T-Mobile will not charge for MMS messages themselves for the first month of the service, after which it will charge 0.39 euros ($0.38) for a 30KB message (which might contain an audio message) or 0.99 euros ($0.98) for a 100KB message, which might contain a video file.
T-Mobil's progress with MMS will doubtless be watched closely by rival operators and handset makers alike. The whole wireless industry is currently sweating over the appetite users may, or may not have for next generation wireless data services, and MMS is believed by some to be most likely a "killer app" that will drive uptake of data network services. However, as T-Mobil's announcement shows, the unfamiliarity of MMS, and the high price of MMS-enabled handsets are both barriers which may delay its uptake in the near term.