Research released by Jupiter estimates that subscribers to i-mode services in Europe will grow to 1.5 million by the end of 2003, up from a total 270,000 at the end of 2002. Although i-mode will remain a niche mobile platform in Europe generating small revenues, the low cost of building an i-mode presence makes it a worthwhile investment for content and services providers.
Growth in the European i-mode user base is being driven by three factors:
Firstly, i-mode is being heavily promoted by several mobile operators including Bouygues Telecom in France and shortly by Telefonica Moviles in Spain. Secondly, a wider choice of i-mode handsets is helping to make the platform more attractive to consumers. Thirdly, a low price point of less than ?100 for colour screen handsets has enabled i-mode to compete with
other network operators’ MMS offerings.
For providers of content and other services targeted at i-mode users, development and maintenance costs will be relatively low, averaging between ?20,000 and ?40,000 per year. Although potential revenues will be limited, likely margins from such a relatively low investment should be high. Experience from i-mode in Japan suggests that the most-popular content
providers will be likely to attract around five percent of total i-mode users each month in any one country. Jupiter Research believes that i-mode will remain a valuable but niche revenue stream for mobile operators and will be recognised as a single part of a broader wireless strategy that includes premium SMS and premium MMS.
Olivier Beauvillain, Analyst at Jupiter Research, said: “Although Vodafone Live! will race ahead of its rival i-mode in Europe, content providers must not ignore the i-mode platform, particularly in France and Spain, where it will have the strongest penetration. Indeed, i-mode is a low risk business and has created a learning path to develop a strong, long term mobile strategy ahead of the rollout of next generation services.”