Phone News

 2005

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28th December

    Premium Rate Fines

From CNET News

British MPs have agreed to raise the maximum fine that can be imposed against companies that operate "rogue dialer" software that hijacks a dial-up Internet user's Web connection.

Parliament on Wednesday agreed that, as of Dec. 30, companies caught abusing U.K. premium-rate services should be liable to fines of up to 250,000, up from the existing limit of 100,000.

Many thousands of dial-up Internet users have fallen victim to rogue dialers throughout 2005. Once installed on a dial-up user's PC, the applications can secretly dial a premium-rate number. This has led some people to run up call charges of hundreds of pounds.

It's thought that many rogue dialers are spread using Trojan horses contained within spam e-mails.

Last month, Ofcom warned that there was "growing evidence of consumer harm" arising from rogue dialers. Victims include Microsoft UK's chief security advisor, Ed Gibson, who admitted in September that he had been hit with a 450 pound bill after becoming infected.

According to Icstis, which regulates the U.K. premium-rate market, the maximum fine had to be raised because companies conducting rogue-dialer scams would often generate more than 100,000 before they were caught. Icstis is now examining whether it can impose a separate fine for each individual offense, which could push the actual maximum fine into the millions of pounds.

Telephony and the Internet are crucial to a modern, global economy. All of us expect to use them without the threat of exploitation by rogue companies prepared to exploit genuine consumers, said Alun Michael, British minister for industry and the regions. This new fine level helps ensure that Icstis has the tools it needs to protect consumers and build trust in the premium-rate payment mechanism.

The higher fines will also apply to fraudulent text messages and voice mails that tell people they have won a prize.

 

18th December

    Telegraphed Propaganda

Surely a non-story. The survey was commissioned by those with something to sell and the conclusions are totally misleading. Why should a betting site be filtered out? Children are allowed to go to the races and they can watch Channel 4 Racing during the afternoon on TV. The only required restriction is that children can't make a bet. And that is down to checks by the bookmaker rather than the phone company. Why shouldn't 16 year olds be allowed to bet anyway, they are trusted enough to be able to have a full time job and live away from home. It only seems fair that they should be able to spend their own money as they seem fit. Similarly with pornography, I don't see why anybody over the age of consent should be denied images of what they can legally do anyway. 

From The Telegraph

Orange allows children to access pornography and gambling websites on its mobile telephones, despite a pledge two years ago to block unsuitable content for minors.

A survey found that 16-year-olds can buy Orange telephones without any age checks and immediately use them to view sexually explicit images or take part in online betting. (Exactly how can they bet by just viewing a website? They need to be able to pay the money, and that will require checks on a credit card etc )

Other mobile telephone companies allow access to adult pictures, videos, chat rooms and gambling services only to customers aged 18 and over.

Orange says it has experienced technical difficulties introducing age-related filters, but would start restricting adult content to under 18-year-olds from February.

The survey was commissioned by Nigel Hawthorn, a businessman with a web filtering firm who became concerned that children were being exposed to inappropriate images on their phones.  (Yeah Yeah)

About a million children under the age of 10 have a mobile telephone, most of which are capable of browsing the internet. Concerns about children accessing adult content on their mobiles led to all the telephone operators signing an industry code of practice in January 2004. At the time, the companies pledged to restrict adult content to customers over 18.

Yesterday T-Mobile, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, 02 and 3 said they had introduced age verification systems to block access to the internet. Customers of those telecoms companies who buy a mobile telephone can visit adult websites or download adult content only if they prove their age - usually by giving credit card and address details.

However, the French-owned Orange still does not filter all adult content. It operates an age-verification check when customers visit the Orange World web portal - the collection of internet sites that it selects and controls - but it allows any customer to visit gambling and pornography sites on the wider internet irrespective of their age.

A spokesman said the full age filtering system would be introduced by February, 25 months after the company signed up to the code of conduct. It's been a technically complicated project to get right and we wanted to make sure it was robust. Once the system was in place, customers trying to visit an adult website through their phone would be asked for credit card details first.

 

15th December

    Discussing Mobile Phone Content Restrictions

Thanks to Jim, More details at www.maccongress.com

My company is producing the first ever Mobile Adult Content Congress for the United States in Miami, Florida January 24-26. The focus of this conference is on the responsible delivery of adult content to mobile phones.

Current speakers include Vodafone, Virgin Mobile UK, Playboy, Bango and more. A few of the subjects to be covered are:

  • The role of mobile operators in responsible delivery of adult mobile content
  • Protecting children from inappropriate content
  • Business models for adult mobile content commerce and distribution
  • Regulatory concerns on delivery of adult content
  • Current and projected future revenues in delivering adult content
  • The role of aggregators and third party content providers
  • Defining the boundaries of adult content
  • Rating adult content
  • Pricing structures
  • Examining the market for adult content
  • Rights management
  • Mobile media content delivery and interoperability
  • Age verification mechanisms
  • Case studies from around the world

 

24th November

    Scam Diallers Continue but at Cheaper Rates 

From The Guardian

A fresh crackdown on internet "rogue-dialler" services was announced yesterday following evidence that fraudsters are finding new ways to cheat home-computer users.

Thousands of people have seen their phone bills soar after falling victim to the scams, which trick home computers into dialling expensive premium-rate lines - usually beginning with the numbers "09" - and are often activated by closing an unwanted pop-up window.

Recently, Icstis, the premium-rate watchdog , said measures already put in place had led to a 95% fall in complaints about such services, prompting it to declare that the problem was effectively at an end. However, Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said yesterday that some of the fraudsters were beginning to use other numbers in an attempt to evade the tougher regulatory regime - necessitating a new clampdown.

The people behind these services are usually based in far-flung locations and have made vast sums from the scams. Dozens of companies have been fined and barred for running rogue-dialler services.

The existing "premium rate services" (PRS) regulations apply to diallers using "09" premium-rate or international numbers. But in order to increase consumer protection, Ofcom is now consulting on extending the regime to enable Icstis to take action against all rogue-dialler operators - irrespective of the phone numbers they use or the call charges involved.

Ofcom cited "growing evidence of consumer harm arising from rogue-dialler services using '08' numbers and, in particular, '087' numbers in an attempt to evade the PRS regulatory regime". An Ofcom spokesman said it was "closing a regulatory gap that might have been taken advantage of".

It may be of some small consolation to those hit by this latest variation of the dialler scam that "087" numbers are not as expensive to call as those beginning with "09": about 10p per minute compared with 1.50 or so.

Last year, in response to growing concern about the problem, Icstis set up a licensing system that requires all premium-rate internet services to be vetted and approved before they can operate.

In May, BT said more than 80,000 of its customers had complained of their computers being linked to premium-rate or international numbers without their consent. The company has offered its customers a free software download designed to stop PCs dialling expensive numbers that are not on an approved list. It has also developed an early warning system to alert customers to unusual call patterns.

 

12th November

    Mobility Restrictions

From Silicon

The major US carriers on Tuesday unveiled guidelines aimed at limiting children's access to adult content and services.

Those under the age of 18 would need parental or a guardian's permission to receive content that carriers offer that may be sexually explicit, excessively violent, or involve gambling, according to voluntary guidelines issued by the wireless industry's biggest trade group, CTIA.

Carriers also plan to make filters and other tools available to restrict internet access on wireless devices.

Steve Largent, CTIA president and chief executive officer, said: Parents must ultimately decide what materials are most suitable for their children, and wireless carriers participating in this important measure are committed to providing parents with the necessary tools to do so.

The top three wireless carriers are among the participants: Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group.

About 21 million five- to 19-year-olds had wireless phones by the end of 2004, according to the technology research firm IDC. The Federal Communications Commission in February urged the industry to act on the issue of adult content.

 

3rd November

    Mobile Sky

From The Guardian

Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile phone network, has unveiled a tie-up with Sky to offer many of its channels to UK users.

From today any subscriber to Vodafone's 3G network will be able to access television pictures from an initial selection of 19 channels, bringing shows such as Football Icon from Sky One, film news and interviews from Sky Movies and live cricket coverage from England's tour of Pakistan from Sky Sports.

Other channels on offer include Sky News, CNN, the National Geographic Channel, Paramount Comedy and Living TV. Vodafone's existing 3G subscribers, which numbered 250,000 in June, will be able to watch the television pictures on their existing handsets at no extra cost until the end of January.

Five channels will be broadcast live - Sky News, CNN, Bloomberg, Sky Sports News and horse racing channel At the Races, while the others will be "made for mobile" versions of their broadcast siblings.

Vodafone said the package had been put together in such a way to best take advantage of the technology. But BSkyB's chief operating officer, Richard Freudenstein, admitted that outstanding rights issues with US broadcasters meant some of Sky's biggest shows such as The Simpsons, 24 and Weeds would not be available at launch.

Between them, mobile phone companies spent 22.5bn on 3G licences and billions more building the network and promoting the new services, but have so far struggled to persuade subscribers to upgrade to the new services in large numbers. They hope that the promise of live channels and "catch up" programming on increasingly high quality colour screens will convince them.

Tim Yates, Vodafone UK's chief marketing officer, said the launch represented a "highly significant day for both the mobile and television industries" and marked a "step change" in the way people would use their mobile phones.

He promised the service, which delivers television pictures comparable to those streamed over the internet, would be available to the 72% of the population currently within a 3G coverage area.

 

24th October

    Voice Over IP Goes Silent

From Spectrum Online

The convergence of telephony and the Internet is a great thing for consumers. It makes voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Vonage, Packet8, and Skype, possible.

In particular, Skype Technologies SA, in London, looms as a dagger poised to cut your phone costs and your local phone company's profits. With its SkypeOut service, a call anywhere in the world costs about 3 US cents per minute. And when the recipient is also a Skype user, the call is absolutely free.

In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, regulations protect a phone company's revenues, prohibiting customers from saving money by making phone calls using any service other than the national carrier, Saudi Telecom, based in Riyadh. Skype users there have gleefully flouted those regulations, paying cheap local tariffs to access the Internet and use it for their calls, instead of directly using Saudi Telecom's expensive long-distance and international calling services.

Although these Skype calls travel along Saudi Telecom's network, the national carrier had been helpless to prevent the practice. VoIP phone calls were just ordinary data packets, indistinguishable from Web and e-mail traffic. Until now.

A seven-year-old Mountain View, Calif., company, Narus Inc., has devised a way for telephone companies to detect data packets belonging to VoIP applications and block the calls. For example, now when someone in Riyadh clicks on Skype's "call" button, Narus's software, installed on the carrier's network, swoops into action. It analyzes the packets flowing across the network, notices what protocols they adhere to, and flags the call as VoIP. In most cases, it can even identify the specific software being used, such as Skype's.

Narus's software can secure, analyze, monitor, and mediate any traffic in an IP network, says Antonio Nucci, the company's chief technology officer. By "mediate" he means block, or otherwise interfere with, data packets as they travel through the network in real time.

Another of Narus's Skype-blocking customers is Giza Systems, a consulting company that specializes in information technologies. Giza, which is based in Cairo, Egypt, installed Narus's software on the network of a Middle Eastern carrier in the spring. Nucci wouldn't say which one, but presumably it is Telecom Egypt, the national phone company. Narus already has a close relationship with the carrier, having written the software for its billing system.

The desire to block or charge for VoIP phone calls extends far beyond the Middle East. According to Jay Thomas, Narus's vice president of product marketing, it can be found in South America, Asia, and Europe. International communications giant Vodafone recently announced a plan to block VoIP calls in Germany, Thomas says. A French wireless carrier, SFR, has announced a similar plan for France.

Nor is it just Skype that's at risk. Most international telephone calling cards also use VoIP technology.

In the United States and many other countries, a phone company's common carrier status prevents it from blocking potentially competitive services.

But there's nothing that keeps a carrier in the United States from introducing jitter, so the quality of the conversation isn't good, Thomas says. So the user will either pay for the carrier's voice-over-Internet application, which brings revenue to the carrier, or pay the carrier for a premium service that allows Skype use to continue. You can deteriorate the service, introduce latency [audible delays in hearing the other end of the line], and also offer a premium to improve it.

U.S. broadband-cable companies are considered information services, which by law gives them the right to block VoIP calls. Comcast Corp., in Philadelphia, the country's largest cable company, is already a Narus customer; Thomas declined to say whether Comcast uses the VoIP-blocking capabilities.

In August, a Federal Communications Commission ruling gave phone companies the same latitude for DSL.

Narus's software does far more than just frustrate Skype users. It can also diagnose, and react to, denial-of-service attacks and dangerous viruses and worms as they wiggle through a network. It makes possible digital wiretaps, a capability that carriers are required by law to have.

However, these positive applications for Narus's software may not be enough to make Internet users warm to its use. Protecting its network is a legitimate thing for a carrier to do, says Alex Curtis, government affairs manager for Public Knowledge, a consumer-interest advocacy group in Washington, D.C. But it's another thing for a Comcast to charge more if I use my own TiVo instead of the personal video recorder they provide, or for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer.

Such concerns used to be largely academic, because carriers had no way of restricting the activities of their customers anyway. Software such as Narus's, with its ability to do what the company euphemistically calls "content-based billing," puts the issue front and center.

 

23rd September

    Nutters Sensitive to Mobile Phone Emissions

From Mediawatch-UK

Commenting about the availability of hardcore on 3G phones, John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk said: The complete answer to this problem is to strengthen the law against pornography so that much of the imagery that is now available becomes illegal in line with Parliament's intention in the 1959 Obscene Publications Act.  The 3G mobile phones make more urgent the need for an international agreement on unacceptable Internet content.

From The Herald Tribune

With the advent of advanced cellular networks that deliver full-motion video from the Internet - and the latest wave of phones featuring large, bright color screens - the U.S. pornography industry is eyeing the cellphone, like the videocassette recorder before it, as a lucrative new vehicle for distribution.

In recent months, that prospect has produced a cadre of entrepreneurs hoping to follow the lead of counterparts in Europe and Asia, where consumers already spend tens of millions of dollars a year on phone-based pornography.

The major American cellular carriers have so far been adamant in their refusal to sell pornography from the same content menus on which they sell ring tones and video games. But there are signs that they may soften their stance. The cellular industry's major trade group is drafting ratings for mobile content - akin to those for movies or video games - signaling that phones, too, will be a subject of viewer discretion.

Roger Entner, a wireless-industry analyst for Ovum, a market research firm, said the emergence of content ratings, coupled with easier use of the Internet on phones, made it inevitable that phone-based pornography would become a fixture. It has every component that has proven conducive to the consumption of adult entertainment - privacy, easy access, and, on top of it, mobility.

For the carriers, it is a tricky proposition. Offering pornography would stir a tempest over indecency and possible pressure from regulators or Congress. But conceding the field to third parties, capable of reaching consumers through Web browsers in phones, would leave millions of dollars on the table.

At present, sales of pornography over mobile phones in the United States amount to virtually nothing. But cellphone commerce is on the rise, with sales of ring tones alone expected to reach $453 million this year, according to the Yankee Group, a research firm. The company estimates that by 2009, sales of pornography for phones will hit $196 million, still meager compared with a projected $1.2 billion for ring tones.

But the likelihood that pornography will be increasingly accessible by phone has children's advocacy groups mobilizing. This month, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, a Christian nonprofit group, met with leaders of the wireless industry to voice concern that phones could provide minors with all-too-easy access to inappropriate material. The Internet hit us blindsided , said Jack Samad, a senior vice president with the advocacy group, referring to the slow reaction of children's advocacy groups to the advent of online pornography. We are attempting to stay ahead of the curve with regard to mobile phones, pressing cellphone carriers to give parents the ability to block access.

The Federal Communications Commission has its own concerns, said David Fiske, a spokesman for the U.S. regulator. The commission takes very seriously the issue of inappropriate material reaching cellphones that are in the hands of children , he said. But he declined to comment on what actions the commission might take.

To some extent, though, the agency's hands are tied in that mobile phone carriers, like other telecommunications companies, are not responsible for what Internet sites consumers visit. But the carriers could be held accountable, experts said, if they take part in selling pornography to minors.

 

31st August

    Stop And Search

From Khaleej Times

Malaysia has authorized police officers to carry out random checks and detain people with pornographic images found on their mobile phones, a news report said.

Phone shop operators who provide downloading services for porn could also be charged for its possession, which is illegal in this Southeast Asian country, the New Straits Times newspaper reported. The offense carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and 50,000 ringgit (US$13,292) in fines.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar said the decision was in response to an earlier news report in the Malay-language tabloid Harian Metro that teenagers were recording images of mass sex parties and distributing them using their video-enabled mobile phones.

Although pornography is illegal in this mostly Muslim country, enforcement has mostly been weak. The government began taking a tougher stand recently, blaming rising crime and moral problems among youths - such as rape and teen pregnancies - on unfettered access to pornography, especially on the Internet.

A salesman allegedly found with a laptop computer containing a downloaded pornographic movie was charged in May in an unprecedented move.

Recently, the country's largest telecommunications company, Telekom Malaysia, began airing television advertisements featuring Web filters and software to help parents block access to Web sites considered unsuitable.

 

30th August

    Phone Sex Shops

From Chiangmai Mail

Entrepreneurial Thai students have devised a new way to make money. They take nude photos of themselves to sell to shops that retail them to clients to download onto mobile phones, all for 200 baht each.

Porn pictures are easy to download from some mobile phone shops.

The commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau Region 5 is now spoiling the fun by checking shops purchasing porn pictures from students.

Female students short of money use camera cell phones to take their own 'naughty' images to sell to mobile phone download service shops at 300-500 baht a time, depending on their scale on the shop porno-meters. Students often exchanged such pictures amongst themselves and, it was also claimed, that some who had received pictures by this method, sneakily and without permission, on-sold them to the shops for a little extra disco money.

The shops will in future, if discovered, face prosecution, after any doubtful downloads are thoroughly inspected by the Thought Police.

 

24th August

  No Nipples on Virgin

From The Guardian

Sex sells, according to the old marketing adage. But while the adult entertainment industry swooped on the introduction of video recorders, embraced multi-angle DVD players and hijacked the internet, mobile phones seem to have slipped its grasp.

All the UK operators have dabbled in the provision of erotic content, either directly or by allowing customers to access content provided by third parties. For customers who want them, there are wallpapers, screensavers, videos, animated scantily clad women and even "moantones" for those who find that Crazy Frog just doesn't do it for them.

But the figures do not match the hype. In its report into the mobile entertainment industry last month, industry expert Informa predicted that the market for erotic content for mobile devices will be worth $2.3bn (1.3bn) by 2010 compared with just under $1bn this year. Within five years there will be more than 114 million regular users of adult services compared with 65 million now. They may look good, but these figures are dwarfed by the overall mobile market. There are already well over 1 billion mobile phone users, and by 2010 that will have passed 3 billion, according to research by Gartner. Informa's prediction for the entire mobile phone content market, including music and gaming, is $43bn by 2010. Adult services will account for just 5% of the market.

Graeme Oxby, marketing director of 3, the UK's newest mobile phone operator, admits: "It is not very important in terms of the volume of usage. It is dwarfed by music and football and comedy. It was massively important on the internet partly at a time when next to nothing was charged for apart from access. For mobiles it is just a bit of the cake. "

The adult content industry believes the operators are downplaying the importance of their wares because they do not want to be seen as peddling pornography. The mobile phone networks, for example, have done deals with well-known adult brands such as Playboy, Hustler and Paul Raymond.

Julia Dimambro, director and co-founder of Cherry Media, which operates the Cherry Sauce mobile phone adult content portal, reckons such deals are an attempt by the operators to distance themselves from the content. Operators are saying that it is not the big revenue driver, but they cannot be seen to be promoting adult content because it affects their brand as a mobile operator.

Last year, the networks plus Virgin Mobile produced a code of conduct and set up the Independent Mobile Content Board (IMCB), which takes best practice from standards bodies such as the British Board of Film Classification and adapts them for mobile phones. Under that agreement, mobile phone users are barred from viewing content the IMCB deems adult, and it cannot be accessed without an age check being carried out.

The adult content available through the mobile phone operators' portals is fairly tame. The video clips available on 3, for example, in no sense could it be described as hardcore , according to Oxby.

With its generally young customer profile in mind, Virgin Mobile has slapped a no-nipples rule on its content. Conlon believes that the market for fun, flirty and sexy content is much wider than the market for the purely erotic. It's the sort of tongue-in-cheek content found in lad's mags rather than in top-shelf publications, and it is interaction rather than graphic detail that seems to turn on more punters, Virgin believes.

Dimambro, however, reckons there is a real market for more hardcore content, provided it has the interactive element that mobiles can bring. Cherry Media's wap.cherry sauce.com age-verified mobile site gets 300,000 hits a month with no marketing behind it. The site repurposes content from top-shelf providers such as Private, and is currently working on a 3G service that will take interactivity to the next level. It offers punters the chance to pick particular girls and act out fantasies.

 

7th August

    Telephone Licence

From The Sunday Herald

The arrival of mobile phone television services in Britain is tipped to create a multi- million pound nightmare for regulatory authorities as controversy over the new gadgets' legal status prompts calls for a wholesale review of the country's TV licensing laws.

The proliferation of services allowing customers to watch television shows on their mobile handsets has exposed flaws in current legislation which could see the Treasury missing out on its cut of a sales explosion.

Now, fearing that the fallout from a clash between phone companies and regulatory bodies could result in industry chaos , the sector's top analysts are calling for a fundamental reassessment of the UK's broadcasting regulations.

We are facing a major issue here. The television licensing laws as they stand cannot cope with the TV-to-mobile revolution, which has created implications for the collection of licensing fees, the authorities' ability to enforce a code of standards and the future status of public broadcasters , said David McQueen, senior telecoms and media consultant at analysts Informa.

Only recently introduced, TV-to-mobile services are set to explode over the coming years. In May, Orange launched a service providing a nine-channel line-up including ITN News& CNN. O2 is due to begin it's own trials next month in collaboration with NTL. Virgin Mobile's test service is also currently up and running and a similar Vodafone offering is in the advanced planning stages.

While universally acclaimed as "the next big thing", controversy has flared up over the question of whether the new television-enabled handsets should be subject to the same licence fees as an ordinary set. Orange believes that they should, and has committed to informing Television Licensing authorities within 28 days of a customer purchasing such a unit. This, unsurprisingly, is the position supported by the regulators. By law, anyone using receiving equipment to watch or record television programme services must be covered by a valid TV licence. Mobile phones capable of receiving television programme services live, or virtually live, would come under that definition, said a spokesman for TV Licensing.

While seemingly straightforward, the definition of what constitutes live or virtually live programming has provided a platform for dispute. Pointing out that their service essentially comprises video clips rather than live broadcasting, O2's current position is that the facility should not be subject to a licence fee. The company has approached Ofcom for clarification.

Under current rules, if you have a TV licence for your main address then you will also be covered for any television equipment powered by its own internal battery. Therefore anyone with no set at home would need to purchase a licence after buying one of the new handsets, as would anybody watching such a unit while plugged into the mains power supply.

That legal situation might seem relatively clear, but most experts suggest that it would prove virtually unenforceable. Will inspectors lurk at every corner ogling handsets, or at least the equivalent of the TV detector van adapted to mobiles? Perhaps they can subcontract it to the traffic wardens , said Michael Ridley, a veteran of distribution contracts with the BBC. This is almost certainly insane. It may be legally correct but will be a nightmare in implementation terms and, unless they can devise a workable solution, should be reconsidered, because having discredited laws only damages the overall system itself.

Licensing rules aside, the mobile television revolution is also raising other issues, such as how ethical codes like the watershed agreement could be enforced and whether the BBC, also planning its own mobile channel, would be breaching its own charter by charging for the service.

 

4th August

    Phone TV

As if phones didn't already have enough features, within the next few years, the mobile industry is going to add another major one: broadcast TV. The service will be consumer-led, but could there be other applications for business?

The leading standard for mobile TV, DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handhelds), has emerged from Nokia and been standardised by the European standards group ETSI, as EN 302 304 (paid download here).

DVB-H means building a new radio receiver into the handset, tuned to whatever spectrum is going to be used for mobile video broadcasting. It sends 15 Mbit/s of data per 8MHz channel, and adds error correction to compensate for possible poor reception.

Nokia has created DVB-H handsets - basically its 7710 device with an add-on radio module. Integrated DVB-H devices are due next year. Other handset makers including Samsung have prototypes and are expected to follow suit.

At first DVB-H will only be in expensive handsets. As time passes, it will become cheaper, until the DVB-H capability costs as little as adding an FM radio receiver. DVB-H trials, in Helsinki, Oxford and about fifteen other places, have focussed on consumer services, in which users pay between €5 and €15 for up to 20 TV channels.

In the US, Pittsburgh has a trial service provided by Crown Castle, which has a nationwide licence for spectrum at 1.5GHz.

Mobile phones bring several benefits for a service like mobile TV. Firstly, they are in users' pockets already, so vendors don't have to sell a whole new device. Secondly, they can use the cellular network as a communications channel for services like interactive TV. And finally, because users are already paying a mobile bill, it is easy to bill them for extra services, and users will (operators hope) be willing to pay to see TV on their mobile.

What about the spectrum?
There are currently no bands set aside for DVB-H broadcasting. However, in the short term, the technology is similar enough to DAB (digital audio broadcasting) to use DAB bands. In the long term, the bandwidth dividend when analogue TV broadcasts are shut down (around 2012) will provide more than enough spectrum for broadcast to mobiles.

As operators scent money, licences for spectrum that can be used for DVB-H may be auctioned, and prices could be high. However, the UK is unlikely to see a repeat of the "3G auction" of 2000, for at least one reason. Ofcom has become technology neutral, and will want to sell spectrum without requiring any particular use.

Any competition?
Mobile phone users can already see TV programs on their handsets if they want to. For instance, Orange's MobiTV system broadcasts CNN and ITV news over the 3G network, to users with the Nokia 6680 handset.

However, using a two-way data network for broadcast data is wasteful and does not scale well. MobiTV is on a free trial at the moment, but the actual cost will be €15, for a limited time (24 hours viewing per week).

Other competition includes Qualcomm's MediaFlo, which the company is hoping to get off the ground.

In Korea, services exist using DMB (digital multimedia broadcast) and there are proposals for S-DMB (satellite digital multimedia broadcast), which would use a terrestrial repeater network to relay signals from satellites. DVB-H promoters label DMB as being too close to DAB. Designed for video, DVB-H gives more data per channel, say its backers.

Any other applications?
Broadcasting to handsets could be very useful for information such as traffic and weather reports, or even warnings and emergency information.

Like other broadcast services, it may also be possible to piggyback other data on it, perhaps including software upgrades for mobile devices, or updates to customer or product databases in devices carried by mobile workers.

 

3rd August

    Private Optimism

Based on an article from The Register Private Media Group - the Barcelona-based adult entertainment outfit - plans to offer hardcore to more than 220m mobile users across Europe.

As part of the content deal with Munich-based MindMatics, Private is looking to make XXX material available to punters in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and France.

Punters who sign up to the premium-rate services will be able to engage in personalised SMS chat and download pictures, videos, mobile sounds and erotic games. [The deal] will enable us to leverage both our unique range of content and our huge existing customer base to take our mobile presence in Europe to a truly market dominant position, the revenue potential of which is just waiting to be exploited.

While the idea of accessing porn on a mobile handset might seem strange to some, the experts claim mobile entertainment is going to generate billions in revenue over the next couple of years. Last week analysts from research house Informa Telecoms & Media published a report which predicts that the global market for mobile entertainment - including music, games, gambling and porn - will be worth $42.8bn by 2010. And they reckon the market for mobile porn will generate $2.3bn by 2010 fuelled by 114m regular users.

Said Daniel Winterbottom, senior research analyst at Informa: The key to turning erotic mobile content into a sustainable revenue stream is to adopt a responsible approach, making sure subscribers who wish to view such content are age verified and that those providers who are looking to make a quick buck are squeezed out of the equation.

 

29th July

    Adult Clips in Demand

From AVN Xobile, a leader in the distribution of adult movies on mobile phones and wireless devices, says its system for providing two-minute film clips on Internet-enabled portable devices is growing at a rate of 5,000-6,000 new subscribers per month.

Xobile (pronounced zoh-bul) is a division of Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), the foremost distributor of Video-on-Demand (VOD) adult movies.

Use of Internet-enabled mobile phones and wireless devices is exploding across the globe and is expected to grow by more than 2,000 percent in the next two years , according to Harvey Kaplan, AEBN's director of mobile operations. Launched in April of this year, Xobile is adding from 5,000 to 6,000 new viewers per month and converting one of eight trial subscribers to paying customers.

Currently providing over 45,000 two-minute clips edited from 4,575 different adult films, Xobile covers 150 different categories, from old classics like Debbie Does Dallas to specialty movies on virtually every sexual interest imaginable.

Each movie clip is about three megabytes, and since the memory cards in portable devices are easily expandable to two gigabytes, the potential to store multiple movies is enormous, Kaplan said, noting that there are 1,024 megabytes in a gigabyte, making it possible to store nearly 700 film clips.

Members of AEBN are automatically enrolled in Xobile and customers pay only for what they watch, with the right to browse, select, and view them on their mobile phone or wireless device.

These phones are equipped with a default 3GPP media player, Windows Media or Real Player, which allows the movie clip to be viewed. Every one of our clips is encoded in multiple bitrates and in all three formats listed above for maximum device penetration. Multiple speeds are also important. For instance, High speed provides the best quality but requires more bandwidth; Low speed requires much less bandwidth but doesn't look as good; Medium is usually the best combination of speed and quality for devices currently in use in the U.S. marketplace , Kaplan said.

 

9th July

    No Takers for Softcore Phone Sex

I am hardly surprised that few people are willing to pay premium prices for softcore rubbish. There are so many better ways of getting the superior hardcore product that censorship of this media must be killing a potentially large market stone dead. Based on an article from Australian IT The Register The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - as of 1 July the newly formed face of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority - has banned hard-core porn from mobile phones.

According to various media reports, mobile operators will not be allowed to punt X18+ content or anything which has been refused classification. They will also be obliged to check customers' ages before ejaculating "less offensive" (MA15+ or R18+) softcore. Furthermore, operators will have to monitor chat room services.

As any well-informed pundit knows, the whole future of 3G hangs on online gambling and pornography. No-one is interested in MMS or the Premiership beamed live to your handset on a two inch square screen. What people really want is the ability to play real-time poker while on the train to work, and download naked people while in the pub.

Carriers launching softcore porn services for mobile phones are likely to discover what mobile soft porn pioneer Hutchison has found: few will use the services, but those who do, like it often.

The carrier monitored feedback after launching a range of adult services last year. We were astounded by the overwhelming silence, 3 head of content Amanda Hutton said. There was very little feedback, she said, and most dealt with the strict access controls. Generally, we receive very few complaints.

Hutton said it was inevitable that other carriers would offer similar services. If they don't, there are other providers out there that will try to do it through premium SMS or MMS-type services. She said 3's adult services appeal to a very small segment of our customer base, but those that do use it, use it relatively frequently .

With guidelines from the regulator announced last week, carriers are re-examining their adult services plans. Vodafone has said it would have "access controlled" services available next year, and Virgin Mobile and Optus are leaving the door open for services.

 

30th June

    Premium Fines

From Silicon

Rogue firms that trick internet users into using premium rate numbers to connect to the web could be hit with fines of up to 250,000 under new government proposals.

The proposals, unveiled by ecommerce minister Alun Michael and backed by the premium services regulator ICSTIS, come in response to consumers concerned about unwittingly connecting to expensive internet diallers.

The current fine for such tricks stands at 100,000 but the government is concerned that some rogues can make significantly more money than that.

Michael said: I'm determined to see that consumers are protected against rogue firms abusing the phone network and bringing misery to millions with nuisance calls. We all have the right to use the internet without the fear of being exploited by firms who prey on consumers. Customers have unwittingly run up hefty phone bills when their automatic dial-ups get locked in to a premium rate number.

ICSTIS director George Kidd said: Our current fine limit of 100,000 is no longer sufficient to deal with the worst services we see. A new fine limit, combined with the other proposals in the Ofcom Review to strengthen consumer protection, should ensure that the relatively small number of rogues out there do not continue to damage trust and confidence in the entire premium rate industry."

The proposed increase is part of the drive to tackle nuisance calls, and Ofcom has announced that it is investigating seven companies who made nuisance calls, usually silent or short duration calls, following a string of complaints from consumers.

 

31st May

    Scam Alert Software Available

From The Register

Software available from www.btmodemprotection.com

BT is saying that it's "winning the fight against unwanted internet diallers" following the launch of its modem protection software at the beginning of May.

In the last four weeks more than 2,000 people a day have downloaded the free software which warns customers if their dial-up modem tries to call any numbers other than those on an "approved" list.

BT, which has received more than 80,000 complaints about internet diallers, also says it's alerted some 300 punters a day that their PCs might have been the victim of a rogue diallers - software which secretly changes computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number.

In the last month BT's creative boutique has also been hard at work renaming the "BT Modem Protection" software "BT Privacy Online". BT boss, Gavin Patterson, said: BT Privacy Online is giving customers the power to derail a dialler before it costs them a penny and if they are unfortunate enough to encounter an unwanted one then we are texting customers with an early warning about routes we suspect of originating dialler problems to minimise the financial impact. With the work we have done barring premium rate and international numbers and blocking traffic to numbers suspected of being associated with unregistered diallers at the earliest possible moment, we are showing how seriously we take this issue and how deeply committed we are to playing our part in resolving it."

Yesterday, some of the UK's top telcos including BT agreed to work together to try and stamp out those hat rip-off punters with expensive phone services. The telcos have effectively signed up to an early warning system that should help the industry spot scams and take action more swiftly against rogue operators that lure unwary punters into running up huge phone bills by calling numbers charging up to 1.50 a minute.

 

12th May

    Rating American Phones

From the Industry Standard

The rising interest on the part of adult-content providers and others in offering video on cell phones has prompted the CTIA, a telecommunications industry group, to prep a voluntary rating system for mobile phone content. Few details on the rating system are available as yet since it's a work in progress, but the CTIA has said it will develop the rating system with the aid of a third party. The CTIA is also consulting with other industry groups that have voluntarily rated their own content, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and computer game companies.

The rating system guidelines likely will debut sometime midyear, and are expected to distinguish content appropriate to the over-18 crowd from content for general consumption. Later, content distinctions will be more refined; I anticipate different ratings for content for kids, teens, and adults, or even more subgroups.

You can argue that rating systems rarely work--and having seen my share of kids and teens in R-rated films or playing games rated for mature audiences, I'd have to agree. However, in my opinion, this particular rating system could actually do what it's meant to do: Keep adult content out of children's hands while allowing adults the freedom to see or hear what they choose.

Why should this system succeed when others have failed? Because if it's implemented at the carrier level--which would make the most sense--it would remove control from handsets and place it with a central server, making it harder for kids to disable the filtering.

Carriers see ratings on content before they ever send it to a handset, and can automatically lock out anything the account owners (presumably the adults of the household), wish to keep from being displayed on a specific phone. To be most efficient, content restrictions should be imposed on a handset-by-handset (or number by number) basis, so that phones belonging to parents and college-age users could display more adult content than those used by children or younger siblings, even if all these phones are billed to the same account.

Mark Desautels, vice president of wireless Internet development for the CTIA, says carriers will determine the specific mechanism through which account holders have access to restricted content. This could be done through a preset permission method, as I've described above, or users could be required to use a credit card or a PIN any time they want to access restricted content. Rated content will include audio and music, video and still images, games, and lottery or online gambling to start; it's not a rating system for the whole Internet, Desautels says.

Of course, if adult content does become available, we'll all have to brush up on our public etiquette and make sure we're a little more careful about what we do with our cell phones and where.

Standardizing a tagging and filtering system is the next hurdle. The fact that the cell phone content ratings initiative comes from an industry body could bode well for achieving agreement on a single set of guidelines, but it must be network-independent and work on all carrier and provider server software.

If the first guidelines are available midyear as planned, carriers could start implementing them late this year--so one hopes these issues will be resolved quickly. The next step is a more refined rating system that might well involve filtering at the household level. Clay Owen, spokesperson for Cingular Wireless, says his company is working on tools that would allow users to get more control over content, though there is no release date as yet. I guess we'll all have to wait to see (and hear).

 

12th April

    Delaying the Scammers

This sounds to be the most practical and effective measure suggested to date.

From the Daily Mail

Earlier this month, premium-rate services regulator ICSTIS fined 16 companies a record 1.3m for making thousands of 'abusive' pre-recorded automated calls to home numbers that conned people into dialling 1.50-a-minute numbers on the false promise of big prizes.

More than 750 people complained about just one of the services. Zanado, the company behind it, is registered in Mauritius. It was fined 35,000 and barred for a year. Others were fined up to 100,000 and barred for 18 months.

In all, more than half the offenders were registered outside the UK, but ICSTIS used emergency powers to shut them down and to prevent Allied Telecommunications, the Cambridge-based phone company that leased lines to them, from handing over the revenue generated by the scams.

ICSTIS director George Kidd said: These services are intrusive, misleading and almost certainly illegal. We have acted fast to stop the harm, but the problem has not gone away.

Around 40,000 are in operation at any one time. The money paid by consumers who use them is shared between the phone company carrying the traffic and the businesses providing the content. Though the majority are legal and may cost as little as 10p a minute, rogue businesses are making large sums by running scams for just a few days, then vanishing. In the past, says ICSTIS, there have been cases where lines were leased over a weekend and the proceeds handed over in cash on the Monday.

Now the regulator is taking its fight to the root of the problem. It is in the process of rushing through a change to its rules that will prevent network operators from handing over revenue for at least 30 days. This is expected to come into effect before the end of the month.

If ICSTIS believes there has been an abuse of the premium-rate service it will be able to freeze payment even longer, until an investigation can be carried out. Earlier this year, an unnamed operator paid out more than 1.5m to several service providers while the regulator was investigating breaches of the industry code of practice.

A spokesman at ICSTIS said: 'The introduction of a compulsory 30-day 'withhold' period will stop this kind of thing happening. It will give us time to look at complaints and impose a longer withhold period where necessary. If you slow down the revenue generating process you take away a big incentive.' And he added: 'When we have the new powers we will not hesitate to use them. We will do whatever we can to protect consumers.'

 

10th April

    Wickedly Soft

From Wired

Earlier this week, Wicked Pictures, a leading XXX production house, inked a licensing deal with Brickhouse Mobile, one of the companies leading the charge to bring porn to cell phones. The two firms hope the pact will result in adult fare for mobile customers around the world.

They have many reasons to expect a lucrative relationship. The Yankee Group predicts the mobile adult-content business to be worth $1 billion worldwide by 2008, while Juniper Research has it at $2.1 billion by 2009.

Either way, it's big bucks. But not necessarily in America. Adult content has been available for a couple of years in Europe and Asia, but conservative U.S. carriers, and an anti-porn administration, have the adult industry taking it slow to put flesh on U.S. phones.

Still, some carriers are offering mobile ring tones using the voices of well-known porn stars, or "moan and groan tones." Others sell sexy wallpapers, saucy stills or short video clips. Most is mild: swimwear and lingerie rather than anything hard core. But the mobile porn industry expects cell phones to be like cable TV: a little flesh at first, then more -- maybe a lot more -- as the medium matures.

This is where Brickhouse Mobile steps in: The company aims to broker deals between the porn industry and carriers. Wired News talked to Brickhouse President Clinton Fayling about the Wicked deal, the industry, regulation and more.

Clinton Fayling said: We will also work with them to create content that is custom for the mobile environment, like ring tones featuring their contract stars, photos and video shot with the mobile format in mind. We believe mobile will have a bigger impact on the adult industry than even the internet. We are going to work with carriers and abide by their standards and practices. For the U.S. market, that means featuring Wicked contract stars in lingerie and bikinis. Internationally, we will offer nude content.

 

6th April

    BT, Rogues and Scammers

If a company has been found to be scamming phone users then clearly BT should pay back any customers who have also reported fraud from that company. If BT has already given the money away to charity they should pay up from their own funds.

From The Telegraph

An investigation is under way into whether British Telecom is legally allowed to make customers who have been victims of a multi-million-pound internet fraud pay their bill.

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether or not BT is in breach of the Proceeds of Crime Act by demanding payment from customers caught by "rogue diallers" - software installed by hackers on to computers which then dials up premium rate numbers.

Tens of thousands of people have unwittingly run up huge amounts, only becoming aware when they receive their bills, which BT insists they must pay even though the firm then donates the money to charity.

BT estimates that 80,000 of its customers have been affected by these scams, at a cost of about 8 million. Across all networks, the total bill could be as high as 10 million.

Bob Blizzard, the MP for Waveney, in Suffolk, believes that making customers pay the bills is wrong. He has reported BT to Suffolk Police, who have now handed the matter over to the CPS to investigate.

These customers are victims of fraud, said Mr Blizzard yesterday. What I put to BT and to the chief constable was that, in demanding this money from them, BT is handling money that is fraudulently generated. BT knows there's something dodgy about this money because, for some time, they have been paying their cut to charity. They say they don't want to make a profit from it but to me they are punishing their customers. France Telecom are waiving these charges and I have put it to BT that they should do the same."

A spokesman for BT said the company could not refuse to carry calls on its network unless it could be proved that a crime had been committed. As much as BT would like to act on a mere suspicion of potential wrongdoing, unless we have very concrete evidence it is very difficult to stop calls or withhold money, he said. It is worth noting that in a lot of cases where complaints have been made by customers of drop-in diallers having been illegally installed on their computers, it has subsequently transpired that they have been installed by others within their family accessing sites, such as porn sites, without the knowledge of the customer.

He added that BT was currently introducing new measures, including early warning text messages and free software, to try to beat the problem.

 

16th March

    Scam Protection Software from BT

Based on an article from The Guardian

BT announced new measures yesterday aimed at preventing internet "scam dialler" services that have defrauded thousands of computer users. The company will offer all 20 million of its customers a free software download that will stop PCs dialling expensive premium rate or international numbers that are not on an approved list.

It has also developed an "early warning" system to ring customers and alert them to unusual call patterns.

Tens of thousands of people have unwittingly run up huge phone bills by falling victim to the rogue dialler scam, which tricks home computers into dialling premium rate and international lines. It is often activated by closing an unwanted pop-up window.

The fraudsters - usually based in far-flung locations - have made millions from the scam. About 30 companies have been fined [a pittance] and barred for running rogue dialler services.

BT acknowledges it has taken "a lot of criticism" for allegedly not doing enough to protect consumers from the scam, while pursuing victims for the full cost of the calls. A spokesman said that even though this was not a problem of BT's making, "we have ploughed resources and a tremendous amount of time into developing new products to help our customers".

It plans to make the new services available to all its customers by May. The software, called BT Modem Protection, will warn customers if their modem begins to dial a number which is not on an approved list.

An early warning alert will send a voice or text message to a customer's landline if a call is made to a destination suspected of operating unregistered diallers, or if the customer's bill jumps dramatically.

 

22nd February

    Scam Diallers are Allowed Back

Based on an article from Yahoo

BT has stopped blocking UK-based premium rate numbers suspected of being used by rogue dialler companies to defraud consumers out of hundreds of pounds.

In June last year BT responded to mounting concerns about rogue dialler software - which secretly changes computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number - and began proactively blocking calls to these numbers. The telco also agreed to forego its share of the money generated by these expensive calls.

However, it's understood that BT has now decided to abandon its "block now ask questions later" policy.
Instead, it will only block numbers if given the go-ahead by UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS, although The Register understands the telco is still prepared to block suspected numbers that originate from outside the UK.

When BT announced plans to protect consumers last year BT's Gavin Patterson said: We have decided to act on this issue, which is causing genuine concern to us and thousands of our customers. When a premium rate number is suspected of being used to deliver rogue diallers we will block traffic to that number without waiting for the regulator to complete an investigation. We need to minimise the number of customers being affected as quickly as we can and we can't allow any more of our customers to fall victim while the sometimes lengthy investigative process gets underway.

BT's tough stand was even given the backing of ICSTIS which said that action at the network level, like BT is taking, protects customers and builds trust in the internet and premium charging.

In the first four months in operation BT blocked 1,000 numbers it believed were being used to run premium-rate dialler scams. During that time it dealt with 45,000 cases where customers had run up inflated phone bills because of rogue diallers

This change of heart seems to be related to them being sued by Opera Telecom. Opera Telecom, which leased out some of the numbers, is suing BT for revenues lost by its customer Netcollex, which is linked to David Sullivan's Daily Sport publishing empire.

Rob Johnson, chief executive of Netcollex, said his firm operated only ethical dialler numbers. Our numbers are transparent. Only people who know they are dialling them are charged. We want the hackers out of business.'

 

20th February

    Phones Coming of Age

Based on an article from Yahoo

Mobile companies are under pressure to police the services they carry amid unspecified "mounting concern" about pornography and gambling. A few operators are taking action to restrict such content to over-18s. [Our own shameful Orange want to restrict content to only over 18's with credit cards]

We've learned from fixed-line (Internet) that if you leave it too late the genie gets out of the bottle, said Al Russell, head of content services for Vodafone UK. Parent Vodafone Group PLC, which has operations in 26 countries, backed voluntary age checks and content filtering in Britain and is urging partners and rivals to avoid heavy-handed regulation by supporting similar moves elsewhere in the world.

Russell was speaking at the annual 3GSM World Congress on the French Riviera. This year, the four-day mobile industry gathering was abuzz with the arrival of a plethora of third-generation phones and services offering speedy connections to a widening array of multimedia content. Alongside the handset makers there were almost twice as many content exhibitors listed as last year including XXX Providers.

Under voluntary British rules drawn up with groups including the National Family and Parenting Institute, wireless networks bar adult services to new handsets by default and lift the restrictions only after receiving proof that the user is 18 or over.

Industry initiatives are also under discussion in the United States and France, while Germany already has statutory rules and the Australian government has published a draft bill it plans to introduce in parliament.

Attempts to label and filter content for global consumption remain fraught with technical and civil liberties problems, as well as cultural differences. Even within the industrialized world, some countries are much less tolerant of explicit imagery than others. Vodafone is pressing rivals in countries such as Spain and Italy to adopt filtering, said Tina Southall, the group's head of content standards: In Spain there's some pretty explicit content without any form of age verification. Given what's happening in other markets I don't think that's a sustainable position.

Mobile operators fear being cast as pornographers, but they also want to avoid being seen as censors by the providers of lucrative wireless services — a key business opportunity in an industry where the main source of revenues, phone calls, is afflicted by price wars.

The strict regime they accepted in Britain is the exception rather than the rule. Elsewhere, networks are overwhelmingly choosing not to bar adult services unless requested to do so by users. Southall said Vodafone plans to use only "opt-in" filtering outside Britain, Ireland and Sweden. That means most of its handsets will have no out-of-the-box access restrictions on pornography, violent games or online casinos.

Stephen Balkam, head of the nonprofit Internet Content Rating Association, said parents often don't know how to block access to services on a child's phone, or may not even realize that inappropriate content might be accessible on the devices. The ICRA, funded by the European Union, is fighting an uphill battle for filtering standards capable of screening out indecent or violent Web content. As such, the group prefers to see the stricter default-bars and age checks on mobiles.

 

15th February

    Orange: The Future is Rights Abuse

It sounds like Shameful Orange of have a hidden agenda. Why don't they simply allow other forms of ID? and why don't they just allow someone to turn up at one of their shops and show themselves to be adult

From The Register

Orange UK has started blocking the delivery of adult content to users not registered as over 18. The decision follows the launch of the official classification guidelines for adult content, as laid out by the UK's Independent Mobile Classification Body.

Orange said imposing the block was the "responsible" thing to do, and that it had planned the move since signing up last year to the voluntary mobile operators' code of practice on adult content.

Users wanting to access content now rated 18, such as pornography, violent games or gambling sites, must register their full address and credit card details with Bango.net. Users without credit cards are not able to register as adults: debit cards don't count.

A disgruntled reader told us: Congratulations to Orange on quickly killing something they didn't like the look of. But you have to wonder if they're cutting their own throat, losing out on the premium SMS's, and the data transfer costs.

Orange says it is working on putting other technologies in place - but it seems that these are not as developed as the company might like. Complying with the code is not technically easy. Some solutions are hard work, a spokesman told us. Things that looked like they'd be simple, turned out not to be. We ask our customers to bear with us.

We get the impression that Orange was rather hoping to have something already in place by this stage in the game. After all, adult content is big business. According to Juniper Research, mobile adult content alone is likely to be worth over $1bn this year. Customers in Europe spend more than anyone else, with an average annual revenue per user of more than $34.

Orange says that it didn't want to rush out a complex system that didn't work, in light of Vodafone's difficulties with its filter last year, where many users were denied access to all services, not just adult content. We are introducing what we can introduce, first, We are testing different options and hope to have something ready by the end of the year."

Until then, the choice is pretty simple: if you want adult content on your handset, but don't have a credit card, the future is not Orange.

 

14th February

    Billions Streaming In

From IT News

Revenue from mobile adult content is expected to reach US$1 billion worldwide this year, driven by the increase in sophisticated services that deliver video clips and streaming video, in addition to text and images, according to a research firm.

The 50 percent increase in revenues predicted for this year over 2004 will mostly come from Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions, Juniper Research said. But porn fans in North America, especially in the US, are expected to boost revenues past the US$400 million mark by the end of the decade.

By 2009, the value of the global adult market in the mobile phone industry is expected to reach US$2.1 billion, according to Juniper.

Currently, the size of the US market is limited because wireless carriers are reluctant to offer adult content out of fear of a regulatory or consumer backlash, Juniper analyst Windsor Holden said. This holds back revenues because wireless subscribers are used to downloading content through their carriers' portal.

Until carriers offer adult services, however, people are expected to become adept at browsing wireless internet sites operated by aggregators or other independent providers, increasing revenues significantly, Holden said.

Worldwide, small businesses are expected to dominate the market this year, but major adult publishers are encroaching on their market share, Juniper said. European customers are currently the biggest spenders on adult content, with an average annual revenue per user of more than US$34.

 

9th February

    Ringing in New Censors

It is interesting to note that hardcore pornography is clearly acceptable for commercial mobile phone content. Hopefully another nail in the ludicrous prohibition on mail order DVDs and video.

From IMCB

Remit

IMCB's remit is to determine a Classification Framework for Commercial Content against which
Content Providers can self-classify their own content (whether provided directly or indirectly) as
18 where appropriate. Such content will be placed behind Access Controls so that, when
combined with age verification arrangements, it is only available to those identified as 18 or
over.

Commercial Content services which fall within IMCB's remit and the Classification Framework
include:

  • Still pictures
  • Video and audiovisual material
  • Mobile games, including java-based games

Services which fall outside IMCB's remit and the Classification Framework are:

  • Text, audio and voice-only services, including where delivered as a Premium Rate
    Service and regulated by ICSTIS
  • Gambling services (because they are age restricted by UK legislation)
  • Moderated and unmoderated chat rooms (commercial unmoderated chat rooms will only
    be accessible by those 18 and over)
  • Location-Based Services (which are the subject of a separate Mobile Operator code of
    practice available at www.imcb.org.uk )
  • Content generated by subscribers, including web logs
  • Content accessed via the internet or WAP where the Mobile Operator is providing
    connectivity only

Specific Classification Framework

Content Providers have responsibility to ensure that the Commercial Content they are directly or
indirectly providing is not unlawful or illegal.

Where Commercial Content contains any content described in any of the sub-sections below it
must be rated as 18 for the purposes of this Classification Framework. As a general guide it
should be noted that if the content in question would be likely to be rated as 18 by an Agreed
Body if it was relevant to that body, then it should be rated as 18 under this Classification
Framework.

In addition, the context and style in which the content is being presented, whether
as a still picture or a video clip, should always be taken into account. Humorous content, such
as violence or combat techniques in a children's cartoon, may therefore be acceptable.

The following list content that is to be rated 18

Themes:

  • No theme is specifically prohibited though these may be subject to other legal requirements. Content must not actively promote or encourage activities that are legally restricted for those under 18 such as drinking alcohol or gambling.

Language:

  • Frequent and repetitive use of the strongest foul language.

Sex:

  • Actual or realistic depictions of sexual activity, for example, Real or simulated sexual intercourse.
    Depiction of sexual activity involving devices such as sex toys.
  • Sexual activity with visible pubic areas and/or genitals or including threats of sexual
    violence such as rape.
  • Note, however, that material which genuinely seeks to inform and educate such as in matters of
    sexuality, safe sex and health and where explicit images are the minimum necessary to illustrate
    and educate in a responsible manner may be permissible.

Nudity

  • Nudity where depicting pubic area and/or genitals (unless it is material which genuinely seeks to
    inform and educate such as in matters of sexuality, safe sex and health and where explicit
    images are kept to the minimum necessary to illustrate and educate in a responsible manner).

Violence

  • Graphic violence which in particular dwells on the infliction of pain, injuries or scenes of sexual
    violence. In respect of mobile games in particular: Gross violence towards realistic humans or animals such as scenes of dismemberment, torture, massive blood and gore, sadism and other types of excessive violence. Graphic, detailed and sustained violence towards realistic humans and animals or violence towards vulnerable or defenceless humans.

Drugs

  • Depictions which promote or encourage illegal drug taking or which provide instructive details as to illegal drug taking.

Horror

  • Any depiction of sustained or detailed inflictions of pain or injury including anything which
    involves sadism, cruelty or induces an unacceptable sense of fear or anxiety.


Imitable techniques

  • Dangerous combat techniques such as ear-claps, head-butts and blows to the neck or any
    emphasis on the use of easily accessible lethal weapons, for example knives.
  • Detailed descriptions of techniques that could be used in a criminal offence.

 

21st January

    No Calls Barred

I have little sympathy for those that whinge about phone box carding. It is directly the fault of our own Government. They should simply allow working girls to legally advertise in local publications. Problem solved.

From The Scotsman

MPs called on the Home Secretary Charles Clarke to introduce statutory call barring of all telephone numbers which appear on prostitutes' cards displayed in telephone kiosks.

They have tabled a House of Commons motion expressing disappointment at the "continued inaction" of mobile phone operators to implement this policy, although BT has barred incoming calls to any BT-owned telephone number appearing on the cards.

The motion speaks of the significant and growing problem of prostitute carding in telephone boxes. This is simply a visible top layer of criminal activity behind which lies a range of serious crimes, including human trafficking, illegal immigration and drug dealing.

The MPs say that the only viable option to tackle this problem was for the Government to introduce statutory call-barring at the earliest opportunity.

The shameful Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regents Park and Kensington North, the sponsor of the motion, said that in order to get round the BT action, people who distribute these cards were now displaying mobile phone numbers. We are not trying to make London like Disneyland and pretend that prostitution does not exist, but this is now a serious issue.

 

16th January

    Phoning your Mates

Sounds like this news item was written years ago. I can't believe that no-one in the States has implemented the idea of porn pics on a phone.

From NBC 30

American cell phone owners could soon be able to download Playboy Playmates as the adult magazine looks to cash in on the wireless craze. Downloading Playmates on cell phones is already the rage in 17 foreign countries, and now, Playboy has announced plans to develop adult-themed games, pictures and special ring tones for U.S. cell phone carriers.

While none of the nation's cell phone providers have yet agreed to offer adult entertainment, critics and parents alike worry it's just a matter of time.

Bob Peters, who represents Morality in Media, said seeing skin on cell phones anytime, anywhere is just one more thing for parents to worry about in the digital age. It's going to be everywhere, you're not going to be able to avoid it whether you want to or not," Peters said. "There's no way you can keep kids away from pornography on cell phones unless it's restricted at the source.

Playboy pledges to offer safeguards to shield children from viewing adult material.

 

15th January

    Alyon Scumware

From the Detroit News

A company that allegedly scammed thousands of Internet users, fraudulently billing them for online pornography they didn't request, has agreed to pay $285,000 in restitution in Michigan and 22 other states and change the way it conducts business.

Alyon Technologies Inc. has entered into a consent agreement with the states in which it agreed to refund anyone who paid bills but submitted complaints about them before June 2003. Those who refused to pay will have their debts forgiven, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said.

In addition, the company agreed to implement a verification system for future online transactions in which it informs users they are about to employ an Alyon service.

The company, which also agreed not to bill minors, must present "clear and conspicuous" information about terms and conditions, including information on charges and on how to contact Alyon.

Cox said the state received about 175 complaints.

The Federal Trade Commission, which also received complaints about Alyon, estimates more than 200,000 people were affected. Under a separate agreement with the federal government, Alyon agreed to forgive $17 million in bills.

Alyon charged consumers $4.99 a minute for dial-up Internet connections to adult Web sites, the FTC said.

 

12th January

    Premium Rate Life

From News.com

China has shut down 97 phone sex lines and arrested an unspecified number of people since July 2004, when it launched a nationwide crackdown on the dial-up service.

Some 700 phone service operators were investigated, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Suspects in China's northern Jilin province and central Hubei province were arrested for offering overseas phone sex services, it said. It did not specify the countries involved.

The crackdown is part of a massive anti-smut campaign that has mainly targeted internet porn. Authorities have closed thousands of internet cafes, stepped up surveillance and fortified filters aimed at shutting out objectionable material - including criticism of the Communist government.

The government has also increased the penalties for those who make or distribute pornographic materials via the internet or mobile phones, with some offences resulting in life in prison.

China's phone services industry brought in about 1.57 billion yuan ($250.07 million) in 2003 and employed some 15,000 people, it said.

With the rapid development of the paid call service market in China, some lawbreakers make use of this form to spread obscene information and even conduct prostitution, Information Industry Minister Wang Xudong was quoted as saying. This depraves social morals, and especially brings great harm to the country's young minds. (We would hate that young Chinese would grow up as decent and tolerant wouldn't we. Much better that they grow up warped, twisted and repressive like their leaders)

 

4th January

    States are Mobility Challenged

From The Sun Herald

In the latest twist to phone sex, porn purveyors are exploring ways to sell or give away pictures, sounds and even movie clips that can be downloaded to wireless phones.

Last month, Playboy Enterprises Inc. announced it would begin delivering phone porn to wireless users in the United States by early 2005.

But Playboy is only the first of numerous companies looking to wireless as a new outlet for porn as mobile phones get more advanced and come with bigger screens and Internet capabilities.

All the major players in this industry are looking at wireless as a big, new channel, said Adam Zawel, an analyst at technology research company Yankee Group Inc.

While the porn industry is still only flirting with cell phones and other wireless devices for now, Zawel estimates by 2008 it will be a $90 million industry in the United States and a $1 billion business worldwide.

In other countries, the popularity of phone porn is already on the rise.

In Turkey, for instance, one popular adult site is visited more than 7 million times a week by subscribers to the Turkcell phone network, according to Yankee Group. In Italy, the site gets more than 3 million hits a week from Vodafone network customers.

Playboy already sells to major wireless markets such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and Brazil.

Given the extraordinary success we've had with our wireless offerings around the world, we felt the time was right to expand our wireless content to the millions of U.S. subscribers, Randy Nicolau, president of distribution for the Playboy Entertainment Group, said in announcing the U.S. service. Playboy has offered few details of its U.S. service plans.

So far, nobody's found an easy way to make a buck off of phone porn. And it's not likely that a three-square-inch cell phone screen will ever displace the computer or the television for stag films or pictures.

In the United States, officials at most mobile phone companies say they don't - and won't - directly offer porn, mainly out of fear they'll offend the majority of their customers.

We're not going to offer adult content , said Ritch Blasi, spokesman for Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless, the nation's biggest cell phone company. We don't think it's compatible with our brand.

Recently, Cingular even quit offering downloadable pictures of fully clothed porn stars, a service that was first available through AT&T Wireless, which Cingular bought in October.

That said, there's nothing to keep U.S. consumers with the newest cell phones from going to any third-party porn site in the world to download video clips of hard-core sex acts or pictures of naked men and women to use as screen wallpaper. And they do.

A Canadian cell phone porn site, for instance, gets more hits from U.S. cell phone users than more mainstream sites such as MSN, according to Yankee Group's Zawel. PhoneBox Entertainment Inc. claims that more than 12 million visitors worldwide visit its two free cell porn sites every month.

In the United States, the phone porn business is still so small that it isn't on the radar screen of regulators or anti-porn groups yet.

At the Federal Communications Commission, spokeswoman Rosemary Kimball said the agency hasn't made any specific rules relating to cell phone porn, nor has it had any requests to do so from lawmakers or others.

Anti-porn groups such as Morality in Media Inc., meanwhile, are so focused on fighting Internet porn that they haven't paid much - if any - attention to nascent business of phone porn.

 

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