While the US is still in the lead with 153.4 million Internet users aged 15 or older, countries like China or India are poised to take the lead in the future, relying on the increasing interest for mobile Web and for mobile games.
Although telecom behemoths are complaining about decreasing revenues and fierce competition from the VoIP technology, a new study from the Online Publishers Association (OPA), called "Going Mobile: An International Study of Content Use and Advertising on the Mobile Web", indicates that their profits are actually increasing due to the growing interest for the mobile Internet.
OPA?s study is the first to go beyond the U.S., involving over 6,000 interviews in the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The study was conducted in partnership with TNS Media and Entertainment.
Until now, cellphone-Web lagged behind Wi-Fi because of the insufficient technological development and because of the high fees, despite the fact that the world is in a continuous search for mobility. Mobile Web also lacked the content-richness displayed on laptops, although PDAs partially solved the problem with their larger screens.
But the new study indicates that with the appearance of the new smartphones, the mobile Web might just be the next big thing.
"While people often think of the mobile Web as the realm of ringtones and messaging, it is clearly a rich platform for quality content and marketing," said OPA president Pam Horan. "Mobile content consumption is high and growing -- in the year ahead, current users plan to spend more time with the mobile Web and new audiences will adopt the platform. Additionally, a large number of consumers are watching ads and acting on them. The OPA 'Going Mobile' study indicates that very real opportunities exist for marketers and publishers to take advantage of the mobile Internet."
"From health info to local news, consumers are devouring a broad range of content on their mobile devices. Going Mobile also found that the passion for mobile content is particularly high among consumers of some key content types, including weather, sports, news and stock quotes," Horan said. "Additionally, it's revealing to see that PC Internet brands are transferring their equity to the mobile Web. Many consumers frequent the same sites on their Mobile Web that they visit on their PC."
According to Going Mobile, 76% of all consumers in the U.S. and Western Europe have access to the Web on their mobile device, and one third (32%) use it. Among those with mobile access, the U.K. leads in usage (54%), followed by the U.S. and Italy, both at 41%. Eighteen percent internationally expect to spend more time in 2007 on the mobile Web ? the U.S. leads the way with 25%, followed by Italy (22%) and the U.K. (20%). Additionally, 41% of those without mobile Web access expect to have it on their next mobile device.
An impressive one-third (34%) of mobile Web users internationally say they will watch advertisements in exchange for free mobile content. The appreciation of ads runs highest in Europe, with 37% willing to watch ads.
Importantly, these ads are driving significant numbers of consumers to take specific actions internationally, both online and offline. Nearly one-in-ten consumers actually made a purchase based on a mobile Web ad. Other common actions include: checking out a website (23%); requesting more information about a product or service (13%); and, going to a store to check out a product (11%).
Horan commented, "Consumers in every country are watching mobile ads and large numbers are being compelled to act. Nearly one quarter of mobile Web users have visited a website based on an ad they viewed, and one out of ten make a purchase. This is a clear indication that the mobile Web is an effective advertising delivery platform and a potentially valuable source of revenue."
Going Mobile found that PC Internet brands are the leading source for mobile Web users internationally. Across all content categories, more than 50% of mobile Web consumers use the same brands they use on their PC. Leading the way are consumers who read technology news on the mobile Web: 73% rely on PC Internet brands. Mobile Web users that access stock quotes (69%), business news (66%) and health news (65%) also rely heavily on PC Internet brands.
The study also revealed that the mobile Internet is complementing activity on the PC Internet. Eighteen percent of users internationally say they actually spend more time on the PC Internet since they began using the mobile Internet.
The mobile Web is particularly important to consumers of popular content verticals: 53% of all online weather consumers leverage their mobile access to get weather information, followed by 49% of online sports information consumers, 36% of online local/national news consumers, and 35% of online stock quote consumers.
With its previous Paid Online Content U.S. Market Spending Report, the OPA proved that people pay for online content. Going Mobile shows that this translates to the mobile Web. More than one-in-ten mobile Internet users have paid for content across categories. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans have paid for tech news, followed by lifestyles content (21%) and product information (20%).
Additionally, mobile Web users are actively registering and personalizing content across categories. For instance, of those mobile Web users who access stock quotes, 66% register and 61% personalize the content.
As of January 2007, there were 747 million people, age 15+, who have used the Internet worldwide at least once, a 10-percent increase versus January 2006, according to comScore Networks. Among the top 15 countries (ranked by penetration), Internet audiences in India, the Russian Federation and China increased the most in 2006, growing 33, 21 and 20 percent, respectively. China now represents the second-largest Internet population in the world, with 86.8 million users, after the U.S., which rose 2 percent year-over-year to 153.4 million users age 15 or older in January 2007. Internet users outside the U.S. now account for 80 percent of the world?s online population.
Canada leads the top that refers to the average hours spent online per visitor, with the average user spending 39.6 hours (and 41.3 hours/ month among broadband users) online during the month. Rounding out the top 5 were Israel, South Korea, the U.S. and the U.K. ? all countries with high broadband penetration. In fact, in each of the top 10 countries, the time spent online by users with a broadband connection was substantially greater than the time spent by users with a narrowband connection.
Mobile phone users in the UK accessed the internet via their handsets about 15.9 million times throughout December 2006, according to a report from the Mobile Data Association.
Nick Lane, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, underlined the importance of user education.
"The continued advancement of handsets means people are beginning to spend more time familiarising themselves with new services," most common of which are news, sport and weather updates Mr Lane said.
He said that by the end of 2007, 797.6 million mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, or roughly 25%, will include web browsing.
Nearly 17.4 million mobile consumers downloaded a mobile game last quarter, up 45 percent from a total of 12 million downloaders a year ago, according to Telephia. On-portal mobile game revenue jumped 61 percent year-over-year to $151 million in Q4 2006, accounting for 74 percent of total mobile game revenues, while off-portal downloads account for the remaining 26 percent. Sixty-five percent of all games are purchased by women. Forty percent of all games are purchased by mobile consumers age 25-36.