The analyst firm said MMS - a technology standard that allows mobile users to send graphics, photographs, audio and video content - will offer mobile phone operators and content providers huge potential revenues from new services.
The power of MMS as a marketing channel for consumer-facing businesses may mean that IT managers will have to support the technology.
John Delaney, principal analyst at Ovum and co-author of the report, said MMS will allow mobile operators and content providers to build on the success of SMS (short message services), which has grown at a phenomenal rate in the past few years.
"SMS growth has not been held back by the fact that users pay to send each message, unlike e-mail, which is functionally richer but free," he said. "And research has shown that users are prepared to pay more for graphical images."
Because mobile users are familiar and comfortable with SMS, operators and content providers should market MMS on this basis, Delaney suggested. "The more companies can tie MMS applications to texting in the users' mind, the easier it will be to market them successfully," he said.
One of the major attractions of MMS is that companies looking to exploit the technology do not have to wait until third-generation networks are available, Delaney said.
"A photo which displays well on a phone's small screen need only be 10Kbytes in size, and 2.5G (GPRS) networks are quite capable of handling these satisfactorily," he explained.
Although about 20 mobile phone operators in Europe have announced firm plans to launch commercial MMS services by the end of 2002, companies should not expect too much too soon, Delaney warned.
"SMS will continue to be the predominant technology used for person-to-person messaging over mobile phones during the next two or three years," he said. "MMS usage will only begin to grow strongly around 2004-2005."
What can MMS be used for?
- Person-to-person applications such as video messaging, content forwarding and enriched texting
- Machine-to-person applications such as marketing, entertainment, information services and interactive games
- Person-to-machine applications such as personal e-mail, voting and competitions.