As wireless carriers encourage more data usage and mobile Web browsing, they’re also terrified of repeating the history of Internet Service Providers that became un-recompensed “dumb pipes” for marketers and businesses. So they continue to ponder the options for searching mobile content, local services, and information that can be accessed from the handset’s interface.

Google and Yahoo both offer substantial mobile products for consumers who are savvy and ambitious enough to use them. Marketers can now purchase Google Mobile AdWords, which feed smaller text ads and direct call links to Google searches from mobile devices. Carriers are worried about losing their own brands, and perhaps too much of the potential revenues from mobile search if they tie the YaGooglehoo brands too closely to the consumer experience.

“In North America, almost all of [the carriers] have decided to go with white-label approaches,” says Eric McCabe, vice president of marketing at JumpTap, which recently contracted to power mobile search and advertising for Alltel. For now, the top-tier wireless carriers appear to favor mobile search start-ups that deliver more revenue-sharing opportunities and less brand conflict. And they test, test, test.

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