Update: I later discovered that the issue of Mobile Spam got some good coverage in the press earlier. Both Warid and Mobilink have sensibly recognized mobile spam as a privacy violation issue. The report has some interesting account of local market happening in this segment.
While spam deserves least of the attention, a macro analysis of spam contents can give a good idea of the commercial activities and trends picking up. Lately, my spam samples have started showing up an increased count for ‘mobile spam business’. Here’s a (sanitized) sample:
Computerized SMS-Marketing Now in PAKISTN:
1. We Send 1000-SMS AD Only Rs.2000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report.
2. We Send 2000-SMS AD Only Rs.4000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report..
3. We Send 3000-SMS AD Only Rs.6000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report..
4. We Send 4000-SMS AD Only Rs.8000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report..
5. We Send 5000-SMS AD Only Rs.10,000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report..
10. We Send 10,000-SMS AD Only Rs.20,000/AD with Complete SMS-Receiving Advance Log Report..
For ORDER Now PLS Call/SMS at <<contact details deleted>>
To be able to send messages across all the networks in Pakistan, you either need to be one of the cellular operator in Pakistan (that would be connected to each of the other operator), or you need to subscribe to bulk SMS services to third parties that might be on offer by any of the cellular operators (I am not aware of any such facility with any of the operator) or finally, you need to do an IP-interconnect with any of the bulk SMS operators on the Internet which will deliver the messages as international SMS to Pakistan. The third party mobile content processors and producers that are on the rise in Pakistan lately (more on this later this month) are generally well-behaved commercial entities but in the absence of any Mobile Content Policies in general and Mobile Spam in particular from PTA, these startups can quickly start providing services to irresponsible mobile spam.
Why is Mobile Spam Dangerous? Because is far more intrusive than its PC cousin which will nag you only when you are at your PC. Even road warriors spend time away from their hand-held’s screens. But it is different with the cell phone. Every time it beeps, one is reminded of an important message from someone special at best or a good joke from a contact at worst. It is this intrusive nature of mobile spam that makes it so attractive for advertisement purposes. You get undivided attention of the recipient.
Why is Mobile Spam Not So Prevalent Yet? Because unlike conventional PC spam, it costs the sender per message to send out the spam message. So this calls for a higher profile scrutiny of the targets (which is good for marketing effectiveness). Also, unlike PC Spam, it is very hard to send bulk mobile spam using regular mobile terminals and one must have (direct or web) access to SMS gateways to be able to send out the spam. As SMS gateways and their services get more prevalent, the abuse will be likely to increase.
What about Operator Mobile Spam? Probably the worst thing operators can do to annoy their customers. Just because its their network, it does not mean that their users do not have ‘do not disturb’ rights on their cell phone in the messaging domain. Pakistani cellular operators, under dropping ARPUs but increasing market size, are desperately turning to SMS and other value added services to boost their revenues. But instead of innovating the space with things like subscribers-opt-in-and-get-paid text advertisements ecosystems, they are simply spamming their users numerous times a day. The wild and unstructured approach of the texting domain gives rises to secondary problems such as SMS mugging detailed here.
Let us hope that the segment get structured with responsible players, informed users and a vigilant regulator so that everyone in the ecosystem ends up a winner. Hopes are expected from all taxes!