Rocky Climb For Mobile IM

ZDNet Asia has a piece on the problems with mobile instant messaging — although all the problems appear to be for the carriers. “The lack of standards for mobile IM services has led to third-party mobile IM services today using the Internet to transfer data between the mobile operators, countries, and end users. This way, third party IM services actually avoid the mobile operators’ billing systems, according to Strand…And since the Internet is used to transmit IM messages, cellphone operators are prevented from charging high prices for IM data traffic. Neither can they differentiate their price on the type of data traffic being sent by the end user”. Since data is often being sent across multiple operators and countries telcos cannot charge a termination fee for delivering messages, which they do with SMS.
The end result is that “many users value mobile IM services, but cellphone operators cannot transform that appreciation into a corresponding higher price for delivering messages”.
If instant messaging is cheap because it uses small amounts of data it shouldn’t really impact the operators network — so the only reason to charge high prices is to gouge the customer. Of course, the main concern is that cheap IM will undermine the market for SMS, which is still the most expensive form of data on a per bit basis. However, the price of SMS is coming down, so it may not be an issue for much longer…