IDC : Early adopters try wireless Web in A-P

The mobile Internet market will be limited to early adopters this year in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), according to a recent survey of Internet subscribers carried out by market analyst International Data Corp. (IDC). Those early adopters represent about 5 percent of mobile phone subscribers surveyed, IDC said.

The survey of 4,000 urban Internet users in Australia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan indicated that the use of mobile data services via a handphone or PDA will not enter the mainstream until 2003, and even then the market will be fragmented among several different kinds of users. This early majority accounts for about 42 percent of mobile subscribers who will typically be young working adults, IDC said.

Corporate customers will rely heavily on mobile e-mail and the ability to access stock quotes, weather and news. The important youth market will want the ability to download music as well as e-mail. Text messaging will also be an important application, IDC said.

Korea is the market leader of the six countries surveyed for wireless Internet use, and Singapore and Hong Kong are expected to be next to see mass consumer adoption of mobile data services, the survey showed.

SMS (short messaging service) is an important bridge towards 2.5G (enhanced second-generation) and 3G (third-generation) mobile data services as 97 percent of subscribers surveyed already use it. Offering SMS versions of wireless applications can help generate interest in data services and maintain revenue streams until a mass market for next generation wireless services materializes, according to IDC.

Getting users to pay for wireless data services may be a challenge. The survey showed a significant drop in interest if users were expected to pay a fee for the services, and the culture of free, advertising-supported Internet use may make some users balk at paying to download content, according to IDC.

Operators need to be aware of the varying interest in services between countries. For example, users in "shopping cultures" like Hong Kong and Singapore show a high level of interest in receiving wireless advertising, but Australian users regard it as a major intrusion of privacy, IDC said.

IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service.

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