Regardless of the state of mobile networks, much of the fate of mobile adult content rests on perception by industry observers who spread the word about new innovations in adult content to audiences around the world. Thus, the key may be in winning over those commentators who are skeptical of the rise of mobile porn.
In a recent column in the online technology publication Wired News commenting on the Yankee Group's $1 billion prediction, Regina Lynn wrote that she was wary of the assessment given her skepticism that mobile subscribers would want to use their devices for erotic titillation.
But now she is taking a different strategy.
"After that column, I got a lot of email from people saying they thought I was wrong and that this was going to be a huge thing, particularly in those countries that don't have a landline infrastructure," Lynn told XBiz. "I was pretty caught up in that sense of, 'No way, who's going to watch porn on those little screens.' I've kind of changed my mind on that. It's more the idea that you have porn in your pocket. You're sitting on the subway and you're watching porn on your screen and nobody knows."
In the United States, for example, that is clearly a problem. It may not matter if Verizon Wireless has the most advanced mobile network in the world if it isn't willing to carry adult content. For now, at least, that is the case.
"We don't offer adult content on Verizon Wireless' service," Nelson said. "We've made a corporate decision not to."
For its part, Sprint PCS' official policy is not to condone any kind of adult content on its networks, but unlike Verizon Wireless, its system has an open architecture, which allows any content provider to distribute content. Thus, Sprint PCS, while officially condemning mobile porn, is profiting from it anyway.
But around the world, carriers are running scared.
Already, the Israeli government has curbed the amount of mobile porn available due to numerous complaints about exposing children to such content. Similarly, Australia has also announced plans to restrict some adult content.
Still, not everyone thinks carriers should worry so much about backlash, particularly because there are many ways to restrict children from accessing adult content.
"Just because you own a wireless device doesn't mean that you'll get Playboy pictures," Playboy's Nesheim said. "You have to go and buy it. Playboy has wireless products in 17 countries and it doesn't seem to be an issue anywhere" outside the U.S.
That may be an oversimplification, but it's true that there are a lot of solutions to the problem.
"Now that we're seeing relatively effective forms of control being introduced, I think more and more [carriers and content providers] will start increasing the content on offer," Holden said. "One [resolution] that's come into play, in the U.K. at least, is the 'opt-in' content control solution employed by Vodafone. This means that customers who wish to have access to adult content and services need to optin by verifying they are over 18, either by registering a credit card or by visiting a Vodafone store."
Until then, he continued, Vodafone phones are unable to receive content deemed appropriate for adults only.
Content Is King
Thus, webmasters who have content they want to try to sell wirelessly should be able to find a venue, especially if they're willing to be patient.
Turrettini explains that in order to get their content distributed, webmasters would have to find a gateway company, along the lines of a Pocket Joy, who has a relationship with a carrier. Certainly, it would be wise to avoid aiming for carriers like Verizon Wireless, who show little sign of opening up their networks, but there are and will continue to be a growing number of outlets.
Nevertheless, observers caution against trying to push any and all content to mobile devices.
In order to make money from mobile porn, it's necessary to work with something that is appropriate for devices that have minimal visual real estate and which make governments around the world feel comfortable, said Anil de Mello, who is helping to set up a Spanish mobile video company called mobuzzTV.
"Mobile porn has to evolve beyond 'traditional' video and into some creative mobile applications that bypass the current regulations," de Mello said. "But I am sure that the industry, which is very creative and innovative, will find a solution."