Maxis and Astro launch ‘made-for-mobile’ movie

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KUALA LUMPUR: Maxis Communications Bhd, the leading telco player in the country, has upped the ante on the broadband face-off among wireless broadband providers by launching the country’s first made-for-mobile movie.

Dimensions, a science fiction movie that has been broken up into 11 five-minute episodes, was launched as a free service yesterday in a partnership between Maxis and Measat Broadcast Network Systems Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Astro All Asia Networks plc. Presently, the extent of the partnership is limited to the launch of Dimensions.

The movie was being billed as the first of its kind in the country — as a mark of innovation, said Maxis’ recently appointed chief operating officer Jean-Pascal van Overbeke, because it was written and shot exclusively for the mobile market.

This stands in contrast to other rich mobile multimedia content, which is often a repackaging of existing content to fit mobile limitations.

With industry players clamouring for market share, it is widely believed that the broadband provider that can provide the best mobile digital content in line with the demands of today’s consumer, such as social networking, rich content and convergence of voice and data, would have the upper hand.

van Overbeke said the movie was a recognition on the part of Maxis that there was a greater convergence between technology and life today, greatly facilitated by mobile technology.

“Today, a mobile phone is not just a phone anymore,” he said. “It combines content and interaction with people in the world that opens doors anytime, anywhere.”

Van Overbeke described the movie as an “investment” to show Maxis users the full capabilities of their mobile devices through the use of mobile-specific content. “The ability to stream rich episode-based entertainment, like a TV mini-series, directly to mobile phones gives our customers more value in mobile entertainment,” he said.

The Dimensions episodes are available for free at its website. Maxis users and Maxis affiliates from around the globe would also be able to access the episodes through their mobile devices with no data or download charges.

On the commercial aspects of this enterprise, van Overbeke said it would depend on customer response to the movie. At this point in time, Dimensions will be monetised through the availability of accompanying accessories such as wallpapers available for download and other associated multimedia messaging services (MMS).

“It’s an investment, and we don’t expect to see payback right away,” van Overbeke said. “We want to showcase where and what (media streaming) could be like.”

Mobile video is by no means a new product for Maxis, whose customers have been able to subscribe to and stream content from Maxis’ partner, Astro, since the launch of the former’s 3G service in 2005.

However, the content available on Astro Mobile thus far has been a repackaging of existing content as opposed to mobile-specific content.

In conjunction with the launch, Astro’s vice-president of new business and broadcast service sales Eric Foo said Astro Mobile would be granting free month-long trials for three of its video-on-demand channels.

The race to acquire market share in the broadband business has heated up of late especially in the wireless broadband segment, which has remained a relatively undeveloped business compared to the mobile voice industry.

Broadband penetration in the country presently stands at about 27%, while cellular penetration has exceeded the 100% mark.

Mobile telcos in the country not only have to compete with one another, but they also face competition from data players, such as WiMAX provider Packet One Networks, which has been aggressively growing its brand.

Earlier in the week, YTL Communications Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of YTL Power International, announced that it had put together a technology consortium that would see a number of key international players develop hardware and software to be used on its WiMAX network, expected in 2H10.

Also, DiGi.Com Bhd yesterday said it expected Internet operations to be a growth driver for 2010 and 2011.

DiGi has gone on the record several times stating that the broadband business will be the next arena up for grabs in this already saturated cellular market.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, November 13, 2009.