As for the value chain strategy, the US MNOs commonly take a walled-garden strategy, dominating the value chain with the control of the provision of handsets, contents and applications. With a high subsidy on terminals, MNOs sell low-price handsets to customers together with a mobile service contract. Usually the handsets are locked to their own networks. And customers have to pay the early termination fee if they choose to terminate the servicesbefore the end of the minimum term. Meanwhile, they tend to keep tight control on what applications are available and what services consumers can access on handsets by selling content through their own branded portals. The Apple iPhone launched by AT&T in June 2007 represents a fundamental departure from this walled garden business model. But Apple has itself also created a walled garden on the iPhone in terms of branding and applications. The exclusive agreement between Apple & AT&T makes iPhone unavailable for subscribers of any other service providers. Although the providers have begun selectively to allow third-party CPs to market multimedia content directly to their subscribers, the walled garden business model still dominate the mobile data service operation.
Some interesting conclusions are:
- The mobile data serviceshave been developing better in South Korea and China than in the US. The mobile data services have been to some extent ignored by the US MNOs.
- Mobile data services can grow into a large market and industry. It can play an important strategic role in a national economy, both in improve the international competitiveness of developing new technologies and new services, and in providing information services for other sectors in the economy.
- A keystone strategy is effective to promote the diffusion of contents and applications, while walled-garden will restrict the diffusion of contents and applications. Almighty strategy is effective to integrate the competitiveness among players in industry. Yet at the same time, it can hurt diversity and fairness in industry.