Mobile Web Surfing Catching on in Asia

A new study showing more people surfing the Web via the cellphone suggests that the PC may soon lose its dominance in Internet access

According to a recent study by global market research company Ipos Insight, four in 10 people in Japan browsed the Internet on their cellphones at the end of last year, twice as many compared to 2003. The survey drew more than 6,500 respondents worldwide.

Ipsos Insight also found that 26 percent of South Korean respondents browsed the Web on their cellphones, while in China and India, 10 percent and 5 percent did so, respectively.

Globally, 25 percent of cellphone owners went online using their handsets, which was slightly higher compared to 2004, according to Ipsos Insight.

A spokesperson from MobileOne, a Singapore-based cellphone operator, told ZDNet Asia that its mobile data revenues is growing. Without revealing specific revenue numbers, he said mobile data accounted for 21 percent of MobileOne's average revenues per user (ARPU) during the first quarter this year.

The mobile Internet wave is largely driven by the rising number of cellphone users in Asia, Ipsos Insight noted. At the end of 2005, cellphone ownership was near saturation in many Asian markets. Over 90 percent of households in South Korea, Japan and China own at least one handset, the Ipsos report showed.

Brian Cruikshank, senior vice president and managing director of Ipsos Insight's technology and communications practice, said: "We think the high correlation between Internet users and mobile phone ownership suggests an opportunity for wireless services or applications that can link aspects of personalization across multiple Internet platforms.

"It will be crucial for companies to let consumers know just how they can leverage personalization opportunities across multiple access devices to their benefit," he added.

Internet companies have been working hard to meet the needs of the growing number of cellphone Internet users.

For example, Opera Software, which makes Web browsers for cellphones, recently released a World Cup edition of its popular Opera Mini browser that allows football fans to get live scores and news on their cellphones. Opera claims there are 3.5 million active Opera Mini users since the browser's launch in January this year.

Google, Yahoo and MSN, too, have mobile versions of their Web portals that are designed to fit the small screen sizes of cellphones.

MOVING MAINSTREAM.

  According to Ipsos Insight, the growth in mobile Internet use in 2005 was driven by cellphone users aged 35 and above. This suggests that surfing the Internet on a mobile phone is emerging as a mainstream activity, as it is no longer just an activity of the traditional early adopters such as young males, Cruikshank pointed out.

According to Cruikshank, accessing the Internet on a wireless handheld device is no longer a novelty for consumers in the major global economies, too. "It's becoming a common, everyday [activity] for many people," he said.

Typifying this trend is Vinay Sarathy, a Singapore-based financial systems consultant. "I've been surfing the Web on my mobile phone, because it's especially convenient to get news updates on the go," he told ZDNet Asia.

Cruikshank believes it's just a matter of time before mobile phones become a dominant Internet platform outside the home.

"In the long term, many of today's PC-centric online activities could be complemented through the mobile phone or migrate to the mobile phone altogether, due to greater convenience and faster connection speeds," Cruikshank noted