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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Cell users want more services

By Jon Van
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO Americans have long lagged behind Koreans, Japanese and others in using cell phones to play games and pursue other diversions, but that might be about to change.

A survey released yesterday by Siemens Communications Inc. suggests that many Americans are eager to use cell phones for e-mail, music, video and other new applications. The survey was released at GlobalComm 2006, the giant trade show for telecommunications-equipment vendors that is under way.

"Especially among younger people, it appears that customers are ahead of cell phone companies in devising new applications," said Harald Braun, president of Siemens' carrier networks division.

A growing number of U.S. cell phone customers use cell phones to send and receive e-mail, and the survey found that nearly 70 percent of those questioned said they're interested in this service.

More than half said they're interested in mobile music and video as well.

Overall, consumers surveyed said they'd be willing to spend 10 percent more each month to support new applications.

The survey results are good news for the industry, Braun said, because "even though Americans have been slower to adopt new applications, the infrastructure in this country is ahead of other countries."

Traditional wired-phone companies, wireless carriers and cable TV operators have embraced a new standard called IMS, or Internet protocol multimedia subsystem, that works to integrate wired and wireless networks. Siemens has tested the new technology in conjunction with Time Warner Inc.'s cable TV operations and demonstrated that it works, Braun said.

Converging wired and wireless networks is vital for network operators to become flexible enough to satisfy consumer whims, said Tim Kober, director of strategic platform planning at Intel Corp.

"Trying to predict which new applications consumers will adopt is nearly impossible for a carrier," Kober said.

"They need a flexible infrastructure so they can quickly ramp up those applications that attract demand. IMS gives them that flexibility. It's an exercise in risk management."

Carriers are pushing for wireless and wired network integration because it is essential to serve corporate customers with their mobile workers and virtual organizations, said Roman Pacewicz, senior vice president for business strategy and development at AT&T.

Workers must access corporate information using a variety of devices from numerous locations, Pacewicz said, meaning that carriers must serve customers without regard to the gadgets they use.

Upgrading networks so they can seamlessly deliver content to wired and wireless devices should pay dividends, whether aiding the mobile worker or providing entertainment to consumers, Siemens' Braun said.

One aspect of the consumerattitudes survey might understate public enthusiasm for new products, he said.

While 77 percent of respondents said they'd like to watch news, information and weather on mobile devices, only 18 percent expressed an interest in erotic programming.

"That's probably low," Braun said. "In my experience, sports and adult entertainment are very popular applications, though people may not like to talk about it in a survey."