Telecommunications companies (telcos) paid too much for European 3G licences on the basis that they would be able to reach mobile consumers directly with web content. The subsequent reluctance of consumers to pay for commercial content and the debts and devaluations afflicting the post-tech-boom telcos has had several consequences. Besides an undercapitalized 3G infrastructure, there has been increasing consternation about the absence of a must-have service ‘killer app’ that would lead to the uptake of 3G products, and determined efforts to find one, as evidenced at events like ‘Mobile Content World’, an industry conference and trade fair held in London in October 2005. But the efforts to sell 3G spectrum (and the entire 3G experiment) may be based on a misapprehension of the nature of users’ relationships with ICTs and web content. This article presents an overview and commentary on the progress of the 3G mobile content industry. In part it is based on a review of presentations at ‘Mobile Content World’, and in part on a review and synthesis of the most recent literature covering 3G and mobile content from the fields of media studies, cultural studies, economics and business.
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