Vodafone Group, the world's biggest mobile-phone company, is trying to entice its customers to send more racy text messages, while Deutsche Telekom wants cellular-phone users to download erotic horoscopes.
As Europe's mobile-phone companies try to recoup the $100 billion they invested in faster wireless Web services, they are counting on adult entertainment, analysts said. Vodafone charges twice as much for messages sent via its "anonymous text-based flirting environment" as for regular messages.
"Adult entertainment is what will make money for mobile phones," said Julia Dimambro, commercial director for wireless communications at Private Media Group Inc. The Nasdaq-listed company supplies adult content to phone companies in Europe.
Profit from adult content over cellular phones such as pornographic videos and photo clips and gambling is expected to reach $4 billion a year by 2006, Private Media said, citing a report by researcher Visiongain.
Phone companies in Europe are banking on faster Web services to kick-start growth in a market where more than 70% of the population has a mobile phone.
"If you're getting hot under the collar and you're feeling the need for some steamy action, then look to your mobile!" Vodafone's Web site says, advertising its Flirt service. "What are you waiting for? Get it on!"
It costs 39 cents to send a message, double the regular rate. Getting messages is free.
Vodafone has signed 380,000 subscribers for its Live! Service, which lets users send and receive photos, play games and swap e-mails via their handsets. That's even as it currently runs at slower speeds than what will be available by the end of the year.
Vodafone spokesman Jon Earl declined to specify the company's revenue from premium-rate services.
When so-called third-generation services start this year in Britain after a two-year delay, users will be able to download video clips and electronic mail at 40 times existing speeds.
There are few regulations governing the use of adult channels on mobile phones in Britain.