Ovum forecasts huge cellular phone growth

Global mobile markets will experience huge growth in the next couple of years, according to independent international analyst group Ovum.

The number of cellular connections worldwide, the market research company says, will grow from 309 million at the end of 1998 to 498 million by the end of 2000 and 665 million by 2002.

The three largest regions in the cellular market, Western Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, will continue to dominate, although their share of the markets will drop from its current 78 per cent to 71 per cent by 2002 as other regions show stronger growth.

The report doesn't give specific figures for New Zealand, but Warburg Dillon Read telecommunications analyst Paul Richards says New Zealand's current cellular penetration of around 18 per cent is expected to rise to 21.6 per cent by 2000 and 31.8 perc ent by 2002.

"New Zealand has a lower penetration than the UK or Scandinavia," he says. "But that's mainly because we started later: mobile phones weren't properly introduced here until 1987-88. And the slower New Zealand economy last year had a direct effect on cellular growth -- we slowed while other countries moved ahead."

Once a country's penetration percentage reaches the high teens, he says, it tends to speed up "because the phones are seen more and become accepted as the norm". New Zealand providers, he says, are also beginning to apply the marketing approach used in Europe, offering different calling plans and prepay options.

Internationally, the fastest growing regions are likely to be Eastern Europe (from seven million connections to 23 million by 2002 -- a 229 per cent growth), Africa (from three million to 10 million -- 224 per cent growth) and Central Asia (from 27 million to 78 million -- up 184 per cent).

Total revenue worldwide is expected to grow from $US195 billion at the end of 1998 to $362 billion by the end of 2002.

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