It’s a strange situation: Most mobile operators today would like to retain control over the application layer and rollout new services themselves instead of letting Internet economics do the job. In practice however, they do not spend a lot of effort to making even the few advanced services they have universally usable. MMS is a prime example as I had to discover recently.
Situation 1: I am in France, I have a French SIM card and wanted to send an MMS to a prepaid subscriber of another French operator, Bouygues. Instead of receiving the MMS, only a text message arrives at the other end with a web link. The reason is that the other end did not have a GPRS subscription. 5 years after the introduction of MMS!? It leaves me puzzled.
Situation 2: O.k. so I can’t send my French friend an MMS but maybe I can send one to a friend in Germany. Message sent, I’ve been charged for it but the MMS never arrived. How nice.
Situation 3: Some days later I was in Spain and repeated the international MMS scenario with a Spanish SIM card. Again, the MMS to a German SIM card was not delivered.
To me it looks like even 5 years after the introduction of MMS, there are still no international agreements in place to forward MMS between operators. Could you imagine eMail not being delivered because the recipient lives in another country? No, probably not. That’s because no international agreements for applications have to be in place to forward eMail. And if there had to be, just imagine how the Internet would look like today and how many people would use it.
Some might say, the difficutlies stem from the fact that telephone numbers are used instead of eMail addresses for MMS messages. True, but international SMS messages which also use telephone numbers work just fine these days. But maybe 5 years is too short a time to make it work? One should not think so.