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Telcos in driving seat for mobile social networking

24 ноября 2010

The increasing use of mobile platforms for social networking provides an opportunity for mobile network operators, but only if they collaborate with those on the Internet services side of the equation, according to South Korea's SK Communications.

According to Hyungchul Joo, CEO of SK Communications, which runs a number of Web portals in South Korea including social networking community Cyworld, there will be 760 million users of social networking services via mobile devices worldwide by 2014, up from 233 million at present.

The growing traffic that this will generate is important for telecoms operators, but they could have a bigger role to play in the market, Joo told attendees at Mobile Asia Congress last week.

There is a long history of cooperation between mobile network operators and Internet services, said Joo. “We together can make customers happier,” he said.

“The key will be the relationship with the customer,” he said. Mobile operators are in a good position to be the first point of contact with the customer; they have a strong brand, understanding of their customers, and big pockets, Joo added.

“The MNO has more advantages,” than the Internet player, he said, but warned that telcos must not underestimate the growing strength of the Internet companies.

Joo hails from a company with a strong presence in the market. “Cyworld reaches 78% of the Internet population in Korea,” Joo said. The mobile version of the site followed in 2004 and has attracted 45% of the country's Internet users.

Cyworld is integrated with NateOn, the instant messaging service launched by SK Communications in 2003. NateOn is now three times bigger than Microsoft's MSN in South Korea, Joo said.

Joo also shared his vision for the future of social networking.

One key area for social networks will be the ability to handle sub-networks, enabling users to distinguish between their different groups of friends. “Managing them is very complex,” admitted Joo. Cyworld provides a grouping feature, and also what Joo described as a “fan option”, or a one-way relationship between users.

However, he noted that customers will want still more going forward.

“The one who solves this problem will have a significant competitive advantage over the other social networking services,” said Joo.

He also predicted that the ability to manage multiple social networks will be crucial in the coming years. As a starting point, SK Communications offers Cyworld Life Log, which aggregates users' social networks, provides a timeline feature, and a search option.

In addition, more location-based features will appear on social networks and the expansion to more platforms, such as the TV set, will take place, he said. And customers will want to integrate their communication across a variety of different devices.

Источник: Total Telecom

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