A couple of interesting articles appeared on the Mobile Pipelines website that when read together paint an interesting picture about 3G services. First up InStat the analyst house had done some consumer research, basically only an eighth of consumers were interested in using mobile video services. Customers who were brand loyal to their carrier (ie: had the most long-term value, were also the ones who expressed the biggest disinterest in the mobile video.)
Secondly, mobile carriers are interested in getting MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) on board. Content experts like Disney (confirmed) and Apple (speculative) to drive usage of their networks. This reminds me of work that I did back at the end of 2000 around a report called Developing Winning Strategies in a Connected Society. In the report, over a 100 CEOs questioned admitted that they thought broadband in its broadest sense important, but DIDN'T know what the killer applications would be that would drive adoption. In essence they were betting blind that technological progress wouldn't screw them over, not a particularly wise bet to make in the telecoms sector in recent years.
Mobile phone operators seem to find themselves in a similar position, by getting content MVNOs on board, they can defer the cost of rolling out 3G networks and observe how successful services can be developed (or not), as a kind of free skunk works. What is more the content experts take over some of the risk that the telecoms companies have found themselves lumbered with.