The one thing you should take away from this story is how vulnerable the service providers really are once the public becomes aware of the free 411 services (and other mobile applications) via text message (SMS).
From The New York Times The 411 on directory assistance
Calling 411 for directory assistance can be maddeningly expensive. Carriers like Sprint and Verizon charge more than $1 and sometimes as much as $2 a call from a cellphone.
Naturally, the wireless carriers and directory assistance companies want to keep the cash cow in their barn. But increasingly, customers have access to free alternatives to 411. And as cellphones become more sophisticated, the options for avoiding paid directory assistance are multiplying.
Google (46645) and 4INFO (44636) provide the same service for free. Try it. Gannett (USA Today) just took an equity stake in my favorite SMS service 4INFO.
What happens when the public is aware of these free services?
Here's what I would do if I was a service provider.
Advertising and location based services are the next big opportunities for the cell phone industry.
What happens when seamless switching (phones that can switch between cell tower and Wi-Fi service) is standard on mobile phones?
To see why service providers should be looking for unique data/advertising applications now, read page 4 of Red Herring issue 3/13/06.