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The Future of Wireless Porn

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Oct 3, 2003 12:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
UNITED KINGDOM – Americans might be slow to integrate more sophisticated cellular technology into their everyday lives, but according to a study released in the U.K., the Brits are downloading more web pages on their mobile devices than ever before.

Typically a computer-phobic culture, the British apparently have no qualms about using cell phones as their primary conduit to the Internet, opening up a virtually unlimited marketing venue for online porn companies and other dominant ecommerce sectors.

Recent statistics from the Mobile Data Association (MDA) state that on average, 28.5 million pages are viewed a day in the U.K through Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), indicating a 300 percent leap over last year.

MDA attributes this growth spurt in cellular usage to the broader availability of cell phones with color screens and user-friendly icons that encourage more frequent usage.

According to MDA, the most up-to-date mobile phones use both WAP and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) to get data from the web. GPRS refers to the way data is downloaded, and WAP is the browser technology that allows users to view downloaded information.

MDA predicts that people will look at eight billion WAP pages by the end of the year and that number will continue to grow with advances in applications, handsets, and the release of 3G (next-generation) cellular technology, which has already launched in Japan.

Until now 3G has been revered as the ultimate solution for bringing high-speed Internet access to mobile devices and paving the way for more visually-reliant industries like porn to develop wireless niches. But the rollout of 3G networks has been slower than expected. Many wireless carriers are only just now upgrading to 2.5G networks, a technology that is added to a 2G network to provide packet-data service.

When available, 3G networks promise faster transmission rates of up to 384 kbps to wireless devices. 3G wireless phones will enable users to download full color photographs from the Internet and stream video clips.

But until 3G cell phones become the rage, the most popular activities for Brits and their cellular phones are downloading ring tones, surfing for celebrity gossip, news, sports, chat, and finding out where the nearest pub is.

Among some of the U.K's leading cellular operators, Hutchinson 3G (also known simply as 'G') has been an outspoken advocate of making porn available to cellular users. Hutchinson is 20 percent owned by Japan's NTT DoCoMo and foresees great things for the cellular porn industry.

The 3G phone operator is expected to launch its service sometime in 2003, which will include rich multimedia content and services, video messages, and text and voice capabilities.

While seeing great opportunities for the wireless porn industry, Global research firm Strategy Analytics thinks there will be a limit to how much money can be made via cellular technology. Strategy Analytics believes that when 3G networks become mainstream, the wireless porn industry will be limited in its revenue potential to only $1 billion by the year 2008.

"We believe the advantages of the mobile phone as a personal and discrete devices for viewing pornography are overstated, " said Senior Analyst Philip Taylor. "The value of the mobile channel to the porn industry will be greater as a customer relationship management-tool than as a distribution medium."

In May of this year, Playboy Enterprises signed a global content deal with Hutchinson 3G to provide thousands of still photos and video clips from its archives. Hutchinson will reportedly use Playboy content alongside its news, sports, and entertainment content.

Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, was quoted as saying: "Playboy has always been committed to making its content available through the use of emerging technologies and new platforms. We believe that 3G is the first mobile platform that truly provides a rich multimedia experience for the user. We are confident that their technological expertise will combine with our entertainment assets to create a compelling consumer experience."

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