The future of mobile Internet will be in Asia – this according to the latest statistics compiled by several market analysts, all of which see enormous potential for mobile web in developing Asian countries. For these developing nations, most of which are faced with low PC penetration to a rapidly growing population, the mobile web is the most affordable as well as the most accessible doorway to the Internet.
This trend towards mobile Internet connectivity is paving the way for another revolution of mobile devices in Asia, this time with more advanced web-connected devices like smartphones, tablets and netbooks. In China, for example, where the Internet market is still considered to be in its infancy, a whopping 227 million users are accessing the web through their mobile devices.
In a report from the Wireless Federation, the smartphone market in Asia will reach 200 million users by 2016, double that of the 100 million level in 2010 and growing at a compounding annual rate of 12 percent. This constitutes over 32 percent of mobile subscriptions in the region, which is expected to increase to 54 percent penetration levels by 2015, according to Abacus International. In a region where PC access is limited, web-connected devices are the great enabler – giving Internet access to people even while they are on the move.
Mobile Internet Trends in Asia
Smartphones and other web-connected devices are very popular everywhere else in the world, but with the special economic circumstances developing nations in Asia have, mobile Internet and the devices that let people gain access are now more popular than ever.
China – with over 457 million web users, this number has surpassed the entire population of the United States, which numbered 308 million at the end of 2010. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 66.2 percent of these Chinese Internet users access the web through their mobile phones. Mobile Internet market value reached 6.44 billion RMB during the first quarter of 2011 according to ePathChina, registering a 23 percent growth rate from the previous year.
Thailand – Online stats company Turehits.net reported a 40 percent increase in Thailand’s mobile Internet usage. Apple’s iPhone is the most dominant device among the country’s four million active mobile web users, followed by Nokia, iPad and RIM’s BlackBerry. With declining smartphone prices, it is expected that these figures will continue to grow exponentially.
Indonesia – Since April of 2011, Indonesia has claimed the top spot among Southeast Asia’s mobile Internet users with a staggering 63 percent adoption rate from its total of five million Internet users, a 158 percent increase from the previous month. The popularity and increasing affordability of smartphone devices in the country has contributed largely to this tremendous growth, with these web-enabled devices used primarily for accessing information, business transactions and e-Commerce.
Philippines – Mobile Internet usage in this country is expected to reach 12 million mobile web users in 2011, up from the previous 8.8 million in 2010. This is evident due to the increased proliferation of affordable smartphones and unlimited data plan options available there, particularly to those who cannot afford laptops or personal computers. Aside from push e-mail, instant messaging, and a wide variety of downloadable apps, Filipinos use mobile web primarily to access social networking sites. A recent report from 24/7 Wall Street dubbed the Philippines as the Social Networking Capital of the World, with an incredibly high 95 percent social network penetration among web users.
India – The country boasts itself as the second largest mobile network in the world next to China, with over 771 million mobile subscribers registered. In a similar manner, mobile internet usage in the country is soaring in parallel, registering over 12.1 million active mobile web users in 2010 and is expected to hit 30 million users by the end of 2011. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group made predictions that India’s mobile web users will continue to grow and reach up to 237 million users by the year 2015.
Which Mobile Internet Devices are Most Popular among Asian Users?
In the recent Mobile Broadband Industry Survey in the Asia-Pacific, conducted by Ovum in partnership with Telecoms Asia, 50 percent of respondents indicated that mobile handsets will still be the major driver for mobile Internet in the region, while another 25 percent point to tablets as the main driver for mobile Internet growth. Tablets have overtaken laptops and netbooks in popularity due to their more mobile features and the tremendous availability of downloadable apps for a wide variety of purposes.
In the same survey, respondents tallied social networking as the highest activity for mobile Internet use at 31 percent, followed by video browsing and sharing at 30 percent and general mobile web browsing at 17 percent. This trend has shifted from the previous years, with web browsing and mobile video as the leading traffic drivers. This is attributed to the increasing popularity of mobile social networking services, and the affordability of mobile Internet subscriber plans that offer special rates such as the unlimited access to social networks offered by mobile operators in the Philippines.
The Asian youth is a significant factor for mobile Internet usage influence in Asia, with 56 percent of the world’s mobile phone-owning youths living in Asia. In China, 84 percent of Chinese Youth use mobile phones to access the web, next only to the 87 percent rate of Hong Kong, which also has the highest mobile phone ownership rate in the whole Asia-Pacific region. In India, less than 50 million youths have access to the Internet but experts forecasts this figure to reach 350 million mobile phoneowning youths by 2012.
Similar trends are being seen in other parts of Asia, such as in Japan where 60 percent of its youth access social networks through their mobile phones. While iPhone grabs the biggest share among smartphone users in Asian countries such as Malaysia, BlackBerry outsells Apple by a 12-to-1 ratio in Indonesia. In the Philippines, mobile operators are expecting that 70 percent of their revenues in 2012 will come from mobile Internet accessed through smartphones.
Mobile Internet Penetration among Asian Businesses
While the popularity of mobile Internet and web-connected devices in Asia is concentrated among individual users for commercial or personal usage, smartphones and mobile Web are slowly finding their hold on enterprise and corporate users in the region as well. Asian businesses adapting to the changing global markets are finding the deployment mobile or remote workers a necessity, and many find great use for smartphones and tablets for a wide variety of business applications.
Small and medium enterprises in Asia are leveraging this popularity of mobile web and web-enabled devices by developing e-Commerce sites that are specifically targeted towards mobile web users. SMEs can now go beyond the geographical limitations of traditional marketing and are using full online access to reach a bigger national or even international market reach. Many are investing marketing budgets on the development of advertising tools catering to mobile platforms and mobile ad networks.
Some are taking mobile web marketing a step further by developing business apps to gain an even better foothold among mobile phone users. According to Gartner, mobile apps that are intended for use on the iPhone, iPad and other similar devices will go beyond US$15 billion in revenues within the year 2011, exceeding the previous year’s revenues by over 190 percent.
This trend towards mobile Internet use enterprise is not unique to small and medium enterprises. Even large, multinational companies in the region coming from various industry niches and markets are moving toward mobile Internet channels for marketing and advertising. This includes major players in the retail, travel, hospitality, finance and pharmaceutical industries. One example is Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company in Japan, which recently purchased over 1,300 Apple iPads for deployment among its sales representatives to be used as tools for marketing. The company finds iPads effective for providing online medical information to doctors and medical purchasers quickly and effectively.
Future Trends for Mobile Internet in Asia
According to Ovum, an analyst firm which focuses on the mobile broadband market, mobile Internet users will reach one billion by the year 2015. This will account for at least 28 percent of total registered mobile broadband users. According to Ovum, the Asia-Pacific region will play a major part in this forecast and will actually dominate the mobile Internet market, growing from 119.1 million users in 2011 to a forecasted 518.4 million users by 2015. Aside from the high mobile-only penetration rate of 34 percent among Asian web users, this tremendous trend towards mobile Internet is being brought about by the lack of fixed-line broadband facilities in highly populated countries in the Asia-Pacific region. According to Ovum, fixed broadband will also grow in parallel with mobile broadband and large percentages of users are actually purchasing plans from both services at the same time.
As telecom companies in several Asia-Pacific countries are now poised to make next generation 3G mobile networks available to the public by 2012, coupled with new and very affordable offerings of web-enabled mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets, more and more people in these countries will soon experience a better and more exciting digital mobile web experience.
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