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Date Posted: 12:04:42 04/24/03 Thu
Author: Australian Financial Review
Subject: Porn to go: new mobiles perfect for adult content

Apr 24 Katrina Nicholas

Playing the pokies, subscribing for Playboy-style video clips and even engaging in visual phone sex is expected to become big business with the advent in Australia of next-generation mobile phone services.

Telecommunications giants including Telstra, Hutchison and Vodafone have spent the past weeks unveiling their latest mobile phone offerings, and while talk of pornography and gambling has been modest, no one denies such services represent a potentially huge, and very lucrative, business opportunity.

Delivered over 3G or 2.5G networks, next-generation services allow users to make video calls and access the internet and email via their mobile phones.

The services also allow users to subscribe for content including news, entertainment, ring tones and games.

Launching Vodafone live! in Sydney this week, Vodafone Australia managing director Grahame Maher said while Vodafone had no plans to become a porn company, such services would probably become available via mobile phones.

Hutchison has gone one step further, confirming last year that it was looking at the provision of adult services.

Meanwhile, Australia's two largest providers of adult services - Adultshop.com and Gallery Global Networks - say they have been investigating the possibility of delivering content to mobile phones for some time.

Gallery Global managing director Craig Ellis said the company was positioning itself to be at the forefront of the emerging market.

He said the advent in Australia of premium SMS and MMS - services whereby mobile phone users pay to receive text or picture messages - represented a huge opportunity.

"Premium SMS opens a number of business opportunities for Gallery Global, including chat, dating and psychic services," Mr Ellis said. "We see it as a major growth opportunity."

With regard to premium MMS, Mr Ellis predicted "girls in bikinis and cheeky Playboy-style stuff" would prove popular.

Adultshop.com chief executive Malcolm Day also said offering adult services via mobile phones had the potential to become big business.

"I was reading Loaded, a UK mag similar to FHM, the other day and it had six full pages devoted to 'sex text' and then another three or four pages of advertisements for mobile services," he said.

But Mr Day said the ability of companies such as Adultshop.com to deliver such services here rested entirely in the hands of regulators. "And I think the government will try and ban it," he said.

That's a sentiment others share, given the federal government's hardline stance on internet porn and gambling.

Federal Information Technology and Communications Minister Richard Alston is reviewing Australia's online content regime as well as the Interactive Gaming Act 2001, which made it illegal for online casinos to provide internet gaming services to Australians.

"It seems to me that as soon as anything involving adult services becomes popular, Senator Alston moves to ban it," Eros Association co-ordinator Robbie Swan said. The Eros Association has about 100 members, including X-rated video providers, brothels and adult product distributors.

Mr Swan said prohibiting Australian companies from providing adult services to mobile phones might prompt people to turn to overseas, unregulated, providers, as has been the case with internet casinos.

A spokesman for Senator Alston said having minors access porn and gambling via mobile phones "would be a matter of considerable concern".

"But 3G is very much in its infancy and we don't think it's a problem that's out of control just yet," the spokesman said.

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