US carriers finally improving multimedia messaging experience


Verizon and Sprint, respectively the second and third largest mobile carriers in the US, announced today that users on both networks will now be able to exchange multimedia messages (MMS). US carriers have been among the slowest in the world to enable inter-carrier messaging, both with SMS and MMS. As a result they have substantially lower usage rates of these services than their European and Asian counterparts.

Mobile365, formerly InphoMatch, will manage the message exchange for the carriers.

Inter-carrier messaging highlights one of the fundamentals of delivering a great user experience: never allow your existing company structure to impair the service you’re providing to your customers. The fact that you’re a Verizon customer or a Sprint customer is irrelevant: this is not something you want to think about when you’re sending a photo of your new car to a friend. Who you pay for monthly wireless bill should have no bearing on your ability to communicate with your contacts. The company is never bigger than its customers.

The first rule of increasing network usage: make the network as accessible as possible.

It is such a simple and basic concept that it never ceases to amaze me that it takes some carriers so long to get it right. This agreement should be one of the last to solve this problem in the US market, but even now Verizon customers still can’t exchange multimedia messages with T-Mobile customers.

Of course, how the messages look when they arrive is another issue altogether… Despite the image processing platforms pioneered by companies like LightSurf (now part of VeriSign), there is still a considerable degree of uncertaintity as to whether your picture will arrive at its destination in the intended format – even in the most developed markets.

No wonder MMS, despite the hype surrounding its introduction, remains a mere fraction of operators’ overall revenues. It just goes to show the importance of getting the user experience right from the outset – if it’s hard to convince a user to try a new service, it’s even harder to get them to try it again after they’ve had a bad experience first time around.


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