Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Chinese dotcoms expect multimedia messaging to boom

AFP , BEIJING

China's top dotcoms believe multimedia messaging services (MMS) will become a gold mine sustaining their profit growth, and have earmarked large sums for aggressive development, state Chinese media said yesterday.

Sohu.com Inc (搜狐), one of China's three large NADAQ-listed portals, plans "huge investment" this year in a bid to outpace its two major rivals, Sina.com and Netease.com, in tapping the market, Xinhua news agency said.

"The peak season for short text messages is over," Sohu's CEO Charles Zhang (張朝陽) said according to Xinhua. "MMS based on (2.5-generation) technology will herald explosive growth in 2004."

Unlike short messaging services (SMS), which allow transmissions of written text only, MMS enables users to send color pictures, animation, recorded sound and video.

At the end of last year, 8 million Chinese residents subscribed to MMS, and experts believe MMS for mobile subscribers will expand to an industry worth US$22 billion by 2008, according to Xinhua.

Sina.com Corp (新浪), China's biggest listed Internet media firm, has also said it would try to become a major player in the expanding MMS business, even though it currently only has "thousands" of MMS users, the agency reported.

"Compared with Sina's 18 million SMS subscribers, the number of ... MMS users is still very small," said Sina's CEO Wang Yan (汪延). "Yet the MMS market possesses enormous business opportunities."

"Hundreds of billions of short multimedia messages will have been sent by 2005, which will have generated a revenue no less than that of SMS."

The future of the industry hinges on how fast the government sets up the needed infrastructure.

China has been pushing the development of the third-generation technology, which allows transmission of voice, data and video, and high speed wireless Internet access 40 times faster than second-generation systems, Xinhua said.

"The rising MMS business ushers in a new wireless Internet era," said an industry expert. "It doesn't simply mean a reordering of Internet portals. It will redefine the market."

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