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MMS Overview

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is as its name suggests the ability to send and receive messages comprising a combination of rich media including text, sounds, images and video to MMS capable handsets. As detailed in its "Data on MMS" report, Mobile Streams believes that:

The transition from Short Message Service (SMS) to Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is as important on mobile phones as the transition from DOS to Windows was for the PC. It represents a revolution.

MMS presents a revolution to the end user in terms of the richness of the messaging services, however it is delivered in an evolutionary manner from the infrastructure suppliers point of view. MMS infrastructure vendors will be reusing components from existing SMS, email, Unified Messaging and other platforms. As such, MMS is simply a presentation layer for email that leverages past developments made in these areas and allows multiple standardized access to messages.

MMS will be the first mobile messaging service to embrace the open Internet standards for messaging. In SMS, proprietary interfaces and architectures were commonplace because the Internet Protocol (IP) and the Internet itself had not yet been developed.

There will be many MMS infrastructure vendors including all the incumbent mobile value-added service platform suppliers such as SMS Center vendors and all the mobile network infrastructure vendors. The market shares will be more distributed as competition in all areas of the mobile value chain increases, but the size of the market will be substantially larger too.

Value and revenues will migrate to the application developers, service providers and content creators who can keep the services fresh and current and novel for end users who will get their services from a variety of different Internet sites- and certainly not one portal or provider. Increasingly, handset vendors will offer content and services and infrastructure suppliers will offer applications.

Content is king and self-created content will be the richest content

The i-mode service from NTT DoCoMo that is already operating in Japan is the clearest example of how MMS services will look and be used in terms of terminals, services, service delivery (Java), wide range of content sites and business models- NTT DoCoMo earns 9% of the total revenues from the i-mode services, the content provider earns the rest. In Europe currently, the reverse is true. (See www.mobileimode.com from Mobile Streams for more information). The success of MMS is linked to the allocation of revenue shares divided between members of the value chain in a fair way according to efforts and responsibilities.

MMS Success= Entertainment + Still Images + Person to Person

Still images such as mobile pictures, photos, postcards, screensavers, autographs, screen personalization, presentations, business cards, card trading, letters, telegrams, telexes and greetings cards are expected to be the major application area in MMS.

Mobile Streams has a skeptical view on the potential for stand-alone Unified Messaging services.

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is the key business case driver for GPRS (General Packet Radio Service, see www.mobileGPRS.com from Mobile Streams) and is also the central driver of the 3G business case (Third Generation, see www.mobile3G.com from Mobile Streams) and will contribute a huge amount to earning a return on 3G investments. MMS is more important than oft-mentioned buzzwords such as mobile commerce and mobile location, which are both secondary enablers of MMS transactions. Indeed, location with MMS will be about one person telling another that they are in a certain place by sending them a photo of that place taken with the digital camera on their MMS terminal.

Many of the features and utilities that are routinely used on PCs today such as screensavers, personalization of desktops, viruses, plug-ins and the like will migrate over to the mobile phone too.

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) has several key technical features:

MMS is a service environment that allows different kinds of services to be offered, especially messaging services that can any exploit different media, rich media, multimedia and multiple media.

MMS will enable messages to be sent and received using lots of different media including text, images, audio and video.

As new more advanced media become available, more content rich applications and services can be offered using the MMS service environment.

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) introduces new messaging platforms to mobile networks in order to enable MMS. These new platforms have been designed to interact with legacy mobile platforms such as SMS Centers. The new platforms include MMS Relay(s) and MMS User Databases.

MMS will require not only new network infrastructure but new MMS compliant terminals. MMS will not be compatible with old terminals, which means, that before it can be widely used, MMS terminals must reach a certain penetration, and that will take at least a couple of years.

MMS is like SMS a non-real time service- a relay platform routes multimedia messages to MMS Servers.

The Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is designed to be future proof. As mobile networks evolve and new media become available, the aim is to make the standards as backwards and forwards compatible as possible.

Access to MMS services should be independent of access point- multimedia messages should be accessible through 3G and 2G mobile networks, fixed networks, the Internet etc. This is where common message stores will be an important enabling technology. To facilitate interoperability and universal messaging access, MMS will comply with Virtual Home Environment (VHE). VHE is a 3G service that simply lets customers have seamless access with a common look and feel to their services from home, office or on the move and in any city as if they were at home. The Virtual Home Environment (VHE) permits the user to manage his services (including non-realtime multimedia messaging handling) via a user profile, permitting, for example, all different types of messaging to be presented to the user in a unified and consistent manner.

MMS supports multiple rich media and it is therefore important that the concept of a user profile has been included. This user profile is stored in the mobile network and is user defined and managed via the Internet and determines which multimedia messages are downloaded immediately to the user and which are left on the server for later collection. The user may also choose to receive notifications of certain multimedia message types.

Although MMS is being standardized by the 3GPP, in fact MMS services can be offered on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service, so called 2.5G) networks.

Terminal Capability Negotiation (User Agent Profile).

Content Scaling (e.g. downscaling of images) and Content Transformation (e.g. conversion of one audio format into another).

These features and platforms are described in the 3GPP specifications and the full "Data on MMS" report.