GSMA announces CEOs from six of the world’s leading mobile operators voice their support for Personal Instant Messaging

GSMA paves the way for IM to build on the success of text messaging

13th February 2006 – Barcelona – The GSM Association (GSMA) today announced an initiative to make instant messaging as popular and ubiquitous among mobile users as text messaging. As part of this initiative, 15 of the world’s leading mobile phone operators plan to rollout instant messaging services that will work across networks.

Eight of the world’s largest operators, China Mobile, Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, TIM, T-Mobile, Turkcell and Vodafone, and the GSM operators in India – Aircel, Bharti, BSNL, Hutchison Essar, Idea, MTNL and Spice – are gearing up to rollout IM services that adhere to the core GSM principles of ease-of-use, security, reliability, interoperability and initiating party pays. More operators are set to follow suit. In an unprecedented show of support for a new mobile service, the Chief Executives of China Mobile, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica Moviles, T-Mobile and Vodafone committed to this approach to IM at a GSMA press conference at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

“The GSMA is calling this approach to instant messaging, Personal IM, because it respects the personal nature of mobile devices and protects the trusted and secure environment surrounding mobile voice calls and text messaging,” said Craig Ehrlich, chairman of the GSM Association.

The support of the world’s leading operators means IM will be rolled out in a consistent way and on a huge scale. The GSMA envisages that operators will use the IM rollout as a blueprint for the launch of many future mobile services.

“Thanks to this coordinated instant messaging campaign, more than 700 million mobile subscribers will eventually have access to an IM service that is intuitive, reliable, secure and will work across networks,” said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association. “Crucially, users will only pay to send, not receive, messages – meaning they can easily control their spending and minimize spam.”

Between them, the 15 operator groups have signed 32 letters of intent paving the way to bilateral interoperability agreements that will allow their customers to exchange messages with users on other networks. Thanks to the strong support from the operator community in India, its mobile users will be among the first to enjoy a fully interoperable service.

A study by the GSMA, supported by global consulting firm Bain & Company, concluded that instant messaging has huge potential among mobile users because it builds on the success of text-messaging by adding presence information, the ability to track a whole conversation and instant delivery. The study also concluded that mobile IM can reach its full potential if mobile operators present a coherent and easy-to-understand proposition to mobile users.

The GSMA’s Personal IM initiative is based on a commercial and technical framework being developed by the Association. Embedded in this framework are the principles that have made voice calls and text messaging such popular services:

  • Ease of use – automatic authentication and billing
  • Security – SIM card verifies identity and the commercial model deters spam
  • Reliability – services are tracked end to end
  • Interoperability – services work across networks
  • Cost transparency – initiating party pays, a simple and clear way to charge

Supporting quotes from operators:

“This project shows how operators can cooperate with one another to ensure that even new services will work across networks and internationally. China Mobile believes the know-how and experience gained from this IM interworking project will be useful for the rollout of other new services.”
Wang Jianzhou, President of China Mobile

“At Orange, we are very excited about the potential of mobile instant messaging and the benefits it will bring to our customers. We are fully committed to making IM a success in the mobile world and understand that the promotion of interoperability, quality of service and customer security are vital factors that we as an industry need to get right to make it happen. We very much support the approach that the GSMA has adopted with its IM campaign. It’s helping the industry to maximise the benefits of the service for customers whilst at the same time, ensuring that a sustainable business model is set up for mobile IM service providers. Orange is therefore delighted to be one of the operators in the campaign’s steering group.”
Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO, Orange Group

“We in the industry should place a big bet on instant messaging. But in order to do so, we need to be bold, to overcome self-imposed limits and focus on opportunities and on how much value we give our customers. We have to learn from the past and think in an integrated way about standards, handsets, usability and distribution.”
Antonio Viana-Baptista, Chairman and CEO, Telefónica Móviles

“The mobile phone is the perfect device for person-to-person communication so instant messaging represents an exciting new opportunity for the mobile industry. To create a compelling experience for users, operators must work together so that IM exchanges are effortless and intuitive even when the sender and recipient are on different networks.”
Rene Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile

“Following the remarkable success of mobile text messaging, Telecom Italia is driving the evolution of messaging services and developing a high quality, integrated offer for customers. Instant messaging constitutes an important transition towards IP-based services, which Telecom Italia believes are an integral part of fixed-mobile convergence. Setting out clear guidelines from the start is important, so we fully support the principles set out by the GSMA.”
Ricardo Ruggiero, CEO of Telecom Italia

“Turkcell was one of the first GSM operators to commercially launch a mobile operator-branded instant messaging service in February 2005. Turkcell Messenger has been a great success since its launch by especially reaching the targeted youth market. We are a strong supporter of service interoperability among operators and IM interworking.
In order to make mobile instant messaging as popular as SMS among mobile users, linking communities across networks is essential. Turkcell has been in IM interworking discussions with fixed and mobile service providers during the last couple of months, and is proud to announce that we have reached agreements with Vodafone and T-Mobile based on GSMA suggested principles.”
Muzaffer Akpinar, CEO of Turkcell

“As we have seen over the last few years, service interoperability has unlocked the true potential for mobile. While we, as mobile operators, need to compete at the retail level, we must also continue to work together at the service interoperability level in order to stimulate customer demand and to continue to grow our industry.
With the support of the GSM Association, we hope to encourage all mobile operators to adopt this open, interoperable approach to instant messaging services, to ensure our customers benefit from seamless services in an environment they trust.”
Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone

“We like products like mobile instant messaging. With voice rates the lowest in the world, we need value added products even more.”
Asim Ghosh, MD of Hutchison Essar

“I think mobile instant messaging will be a great hit with the burgeoning young age population of India, as it will provide them a real time, fast-paced, multi-party conversation environment. It will help them stay in constant touch with their groups and also allow them to exchange text and other multimedia features within the group economically”.
Sunil. B. Mittal, CMD, Bharti Enterprises

“The Indian subscriber has a great propensity for texting and, given the innate Indian IT tendencies, we believe this would translate into a tremendous scope for mobile instant messaging in the country. COAI and all the GSM operators are committed to cooperate and work together for the success of this project and the benefit of the customer”.
Sanjeev Aga, Chairman, COAI

“Mobile instant messaging will extend the benefits of instant messaging to a global community of over 2 billion mobile customers. More than half of mobile customers use SMS and many of these are candidates to adopt Mobile IM. To meet the growing appetite for new services, operators will need to continue to deliver widely interoperable, secure and premium communications to customers.”
Stephen Bertrand, Partner in Bain & Company’s Global Telecommunications Practice.

For further information, please visit the personal instant messaging homepage

About the GSM Association

For further information contact:

David Pringle
GSM Association
Tel: +44 795 755 6069

Mark Smith
GSM Association
Tel: +44 7850 229724