Reporting in their “oddly enough” section recently, Reuters noted that one-third of all cell phone calls made in
“Beeping,” while unanticipated by wireless operators, is a smart adaptation of technology to better suit user needs and is currently under study by Microsoft Research. Cash-strapped users can continue to use their phones to communicate with friends and family as long as someone else foots the bill. This practice comes with a host of etiquette rules like not beeping a romantic interest and the one with more wealth pays. While such rules help to make “beeping” more socially acceptable, it is still considered nominally intrusive by receivers and demonstrates the degree to which users are willing to inconvenience or be inconvenienced in order to communicate with one another via cell phone.
Wireless operators have the opportunity to benefit from users' willingness to suffer minor inconveniences in return for service. With emerging advertising models, operators allow users to make a phone call for free or at subsidized rates in return for viewing (or listening to) a short ad. Operators can sell ad space to corporations interested in reaching the emerging mass markets of developing countries. Skeptics may question whether cash-strapped cell phone users are an interesting target market for advertisers. Vital Wave Consulting research demonstrates that cell phone users, even those earning less than subsistence-level income ($2 per day), have funds available for the purchase of goods and services. For instance, in
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