Wireless 411 Seeming Less Likely

Even as the notion of a directory of wireless phone numbers is getting greater attention in the mainstream, it seems more and more like the prospects for such a service are dim. With Verizon taking their 43M customers out of the mix saying that such a service is not desired by consumers, there is a great likelihood that a 411 service would fail: imagine that you try to use the service, but 75% of the time you ask for someone’s number, you find that it isn’t listed because they are with VZW, or they opted out… How many times would you use the service before you gave up on it? Sprint seems to have realized this, as they have now announced that they are putting their 411 plans on hold, attributing the change in stance on onerous legislation that makes it too difficult to get opt-in validation from subscribers. We’ve talked about wireless 411 before, concluding that it was a moot issue. Some carriers are interested in it, some aren’t; some subscribers are interested, some aren’t; legislators want to make sure it’s opt-in and free to opt-out, carriers agree — not much of a debate. One additional observation is that although W411 may fail in the general market, there may be niches in which it would be very popular, for example, imagine those university campuses that have switched all their residence telephones to mobile services. Those students will spend four years or more without a landline, and they may want to be ‘findable’ in a directory of some kind. If a large % of this community participates, it would be an exemplary niche for the service.

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