06 August 2005

Mobile phone subscribers in China

At the beginning of 2005, China counted 340M mobile phone subscribers (or 26% of the total population). This represents 63M new subscribers in a year, and the single largest mobile market in the world.

Source, Ministry of Information Industry of China (2005) via emarketer The wireless market in China: vast and varied (24-05-05).

Mobile phones as most prized possessions

Reuters Don't ground teen, confiscate the mobile phone (06-05-05) reports on a study by Cheil Communications, a South-Korean advertsing firm, which shows that for 77% of young Koreans, between 13 and 18 years of age, the cell-phone is a must-have item. They would feel helpless without a mobile and cut out from their friends.

05 August 2005

An example of ambient telecommunication

The Los Angeles Time - via eMarketer, 29-06-05 - reports the story of 15 year-old Will who on average spends 5.5 hours daily on his mobile phone.

Sometimes he talked, sometimes he listened. But most of the time, the 15 year-old just dialed a friend and left the phone on. Connected only by wireless headsets. Will and his pal spent entire days - together, but apart - shopping, snacking, doing homework and even nodding off to sleep.

SKYPE users describe similar behaviours of ambient telecommunication.

11 January 2005

A perceived benefit-based segmentation of mobile phone users

IDC's What makes mobile users tick? The underlying factors of mobile phone usage and purchase criteria report proposes a segmentation of mobile phone users based on how the perceived benefit from using mobile phones are rated.

  • Productivity and convenience are more frequently rated highest
  • Safety and security tend to correspond to price-conscious users who favour simple, easy-to-use phones
  • Style and status are considered more important by men than by women

Thus, while some people relish the increased productivity and convenience of having a mobile phone, others are merely satisfied with their heightened sense of safety and security when carrying these devices. Fortunately for mobile phone vendors and wireless service providers offering emerging value-added features sets and services, a full constituency of mobile users thrive on the style and status associated with owning the latest full-featured phones.

Will camera phones replace cameras?

Some quantitative indications on the camera phone market and camera phone use come from InfoTrends/CAP Ventures's report Mobile Imaging: Technology, Trends, Consumer Behaviour, and Business Strategies (via Reuters)

In 2004, camera phone shipments are estimated at 178 M on a total of 628 M handsets shipped (corresponding to 28%). The report projects a formidable growth: by 2009 89% of all phones (968 M) will be camera phones (860 M). And makes the substitution argument that camera phones will take the place of low- and mid-range cameras

for many consumers the camera phone will become their everyday camera

the total number of images captured on camera phones will reach 227 billion by 2009, exceeding the number of photos taken on digital still cameras and film cameras combined!

The argument seems to be grounded on one main dimension, technological innovation

  • primary drivers behind this explosion are improvements in imaging functions
  • higher-speed wireless bandwidth
  • easier to use handsets, services and peripherals

some economics

  • rapid declines in prices for this functionality

some psychology

  • intention to purchase camera phones expressed by 50% of respondent

A potential precursor of the predicted trend is found in Japan where camera phones are the primary cameras for 12,5% of Japanese respondents. However, research on use (based on interviews with 6,360 consumers in North America, Western Europe, Japan, China) seems to show something different. People in Japan are taking much less pictures with their camera phones and are printing them much less often.

The report finds that people in North America and China take an average of 20 camera phone pictures per month, against 5 in Japan. Also in Japan the percentage of camera photos that are printed is, at 1-2%, much lower than in the other countries where consumers are printing between 8 and 10%.

10 January 2005

3G/UMTS adoption - Worldwide

The UMTS Forum announces (via the 3G Newsletter) 16 M 3G/UMTS subscribers at the end of 2004 worldwide, with a 6 M new subscribers in the last quarter of the year. Europe accounts for about one third of the global subscribers base.

Considering recent estimations of the total number of mobile subscribers to 1.5 billion, 3G/UMTS subscribers represent a small fraction, of about 1%.

Teens JUST want a mobile phone as a gift

Starting in 2001, Cingular carries out, through International Communications Research, a Christmas survey among 13-17 year-old US teens to know for wishing a mobile phone as a Christmas gift.

The December 2004 survey suggests that the mobile phone is an essential, practical item:

Convenience (20%, +18% in a year)
Just want one (18%, +10% in a year)

with a broad communication function, and few specific ones:

Keep in touch with friends and family (32%, -14% in a year, but stable with respect to 2001 33%)
Just in case of emergencies (10%, -13% in a year, but stable with respect to 2001 13%)
Safety reasons (2%, - 5% in a year, but stable with respec to 2001 3%)

and little show off effect:
It's cool (7% in 2003, 13% in 2001)

No mention of converging digital functionalities such as music and photography, even though camera phones appear to be number two on the list of top gifts after MP3 players. But this may be because of the questionnaire design.

21 December 2004

Watching mobile video clips - Finland

Given how important is mobile multimedia innovation, there is surprisingly little public research on usage of multimedia mobile devices and services. Operators of 3G/UMTS networks, who must have carried out extensive research on how people receive and use mobile video services, have communicated little on their results. In this situation, we can only trust them that demand for these services exists.

A contribution towards understanding what people do with video-enabled phones comes from a team of the National Consumer Research Centre in Finland.

At the end of 2002, Repo, Hyvönen, Pantzar and Timonen gave a video-phone and access to a mobile portal for a week to a group of 13 Finnish people. The group was composed of early majority pragmatists: average users of the mobile phone and video on Internet; females and males; from three different age groups - less than 20, between 20 and 40; more than 40 years-old. During the week of test, participants kept a diary of their video-clips viewing, of the situations and of their feelings. They also went through a training sessions and one predefined activity per day.

The mobile portal offered a small selection of video clips supplied by Elisa.TV: 15 video clips of Hyppönen Enbuske Experience, a TV talk-show; 11 Karaoke video clips; 3 music videos and animated children 's cartoons. When accessed in mobility, their image and audio quality were relatively poor, and downloading was slow. Complaints with regard to these aspects were frequent.


Participants appreciated watching music videos, animated clips and Karaoke recordings.


Watching video clips was a natural, positive experience in two contexts:

  • as a pass-time when they were alone, e.g. during a break; in a queue; in the backseat of a taxi; singing a karaoke song in the car when picking children up from school. The declared primary use was to avoid boredom and frustration. They felt videos were a good distraction.

An example: the daughter of one of the mothers had already grown impatient:she was getting tired of watching the game. Then suddenly it dawned on me: why not let her watch animated films while the boys are playing? I showed her the first video clip on the list of cartoons and it made her really happy - and the mothers, too, were all excited.

  • as a collective leisure activity, cartoons with children and karaoke with friends.  Participants played karaoke videos in group and in many different locations: in the school cafeteria, at a floor ball tournament, on the subway.

Two examples: We watched karaoke today in the school cafeteria. It was fun, all of us at the table singing together. The other diners looked at us with an expression of "good grief!" on their faces - but we didn't  let that bother us.

I was fiddling with my phone when I heard one of the mothers say she was going to a party in the evening where they were going to have karaoke. It hit me that she could practice beforehand on my phone! I put the Juankoski piece on - and weren'tthe mommies delighted! When Juankoski was finished I put on Jari Sillanpää, and it just got better and better. Everyone was really excited!

Watching video streaming in public transportation represented instead a negative experience; users felt that the video sound disturbed other passengers.  

I wouldn't watch videos on the bus. What if the person sitting next to you is somebody who's totally exhausted after a day work, has perhaps been harassed by his boss, and who will only be irritated by the crackling noise? No thanks.

15 December 2004

MMS adoption and usage 1.2 - Malaysia

Much ado about MMS offers a very informative discussion of MMS adoption and usage in Asia, illustrated by the case of Malaysia. MMS offers were launched during the summer 2003 by the three Malaysian mobile operators: Maxis Communications, DiGi Telecommunications and Celcom. But uptake and usage have been below expectations.

On average active Malaysian MMS users send about two MMS per month (South Korean users send three MMS per month), what generates a small percentage (1.3%) of the total Malaysian messaging market.

Janice Chong, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific analyst for telecom research, explains

Users generally feel there's no compelling need for MMS for peer-to-peer messaging, and it's generally considered expensive - especially among price-sensitive Malaysian subscribers, of whom 77.5% are prepaid subscribers 

The barriers to adoption and usage  are identified as

  • high price, MMS vary between 50 and 80 sen per message, compared to between 3 and 15 sen for SMS messages.
  • purchase cost and complexity of MMS-enabled mobile phones
  • interoperability problems between operators
  • subscriptions, most mobile users have prepaid subscriptions and seem to be satisfied with SMS; MMS seem to be gaining ground among postpaid subscribers

Regarding prices, a Gartner Dataquest research of 12 Asia Pacific countries finds an average price of 69.5 sen per MMS, with the lowest price in Japan, equivalent to 21 sen per MMS, and the highest in Australia, equivalent to RM 2.12.

Japan and South Korea are the countries where MMS adoption is significantly higher. In Japan, however, MMS trafic grew steadily for about a year, then levelled off and declined.

MMS adoption and usage 1.1 - UK

By mid 2004, in the UK there were 7.5 M cameraphone users, versus 3.5 M in 2003, according to the Autumn 2004 Mobile Phone Report by Market research Continental Research (via the BBC). Among them, they were 36% to have never sent a MMS. They were fewer, but still many (27%), to do so a year earlier.

Users who send MMS do so sporadically. In 2003, the average was 6.1 MMS per month per user; by mid-2004 it was down to 3.7 MMS per month.

Canalys, a Technology analyst, (via vnunet) reaches a similar conclusion:

There has been a huge rise in cameraphone shipments, but MMS usage has not exploded in the same way. Consumers are clearly drawn to the idea of having a convenient, ever-present digital camera built into their phone, particularly as the purchase price for many of them has been offset by upgrade subsidies. But that does not necessarily reflect a desire to send photos between phones, particularly if there is a cost attached to each message.

Earlier this year, the Guardian published the article Not so happy with the snappy based on the first Mobile Data Association industry-wide analysis of MMS:

  • by the summer, in the UK there were more than 11 M MMS registered users, corresponding to nearly a quarter of all mobile users
  • a quarter of all mobile users have sent at least one MMS during Q3
  • Orange announced daily traffic of 125,000 MMS, with 700,000 customers sending at least one MMS a month
  • O2 announced daily traffic of 100,000 MMS in the UK, Ireland and Germany
  • T-Mobile announced customers had send 4.4 M MMS in 2003, compared to 2.98 Billion SMS

Quoting the Guardian:

while MMS is measured in millions, text messages are measured in billions

14 December 2004

MMS adoption and usage 1.0 - Sweden

Most telecom market analysts agree that MMS uptake is thin and much slower than the industry expected. Enpocket, a mobile entertainment and marketing services company, seems to be the only analyst to report growing user interest for MMS. Its quarterly Mobile Media Monitor US indicates strong and rapid MMS adoption among 25-34 years old (20%, double the adoption rate six months earlier). The report doesn't say much however on what MMS users do with them: if they just try them a few times, or use them on a more regular basis, as it happens with SMS. 

A reminder
MMS have been commercially available for about thirty months. According to The state of MMS, Telenor Mobile in Norway was the first MMS operator in May 2002. Two years later, the number of operators to offer MMS was 210. Since launch, operators have been extremely cautious with publishing MMS usage and traffic data.

The only statement I could find (via Digital Media Europe) was issued by TeliaSonera and announced that:

  • the number of registered MMS users in Sweden was 1 M  in October, and 1.1 M in November, corresponding to roughly 30% of its customer base
  • the number of MMS-enabled handsets on its network was 1.3 M
  • MMS traffic was increasing from 2.3 MMS sent on its network in 2003; to 4.7 M during the first six months of 2004; to 3.8 M in the following three months of the year (Q3 2004)
  • the majority of MMS combine text and images (78%), some also include sound clips (16%)

If the trend continues, this will correspond roughly to 10 MMS per year per MMS customer. This low usage is confirmed by the Swedish National Post and Telecom Agency (Post&Telestyrelsen) which in its Swedish Telecom Market 2003 analysis talks of 6.7 M MMS sent in the year in Sweden, a tiny fraction compared to the 1.82 Billion SMS Swedes sent that same year.

13 December 2004

SMS Usage - UK

Research from YouGov (via The Register) provides us with an interesting update on SMS usage in the UK. The research was carried out for Tegic Communications, a predictive text software provider, on 2.680 mobile phone users.

SMS relationships
Among 18-29 year olds, they are 56% to have flirted using text messages; 19% to have said I love you for the first time; and 10% It's over.

SMS wishes
Many respondents use SMS to send wishes: they are 70% to wish Happy Birthday, and 56% to wish a Merry Christmas with a text message

SMS gender differences
Women use SMS more than men: they send an average of 19 SMS per week compared to 15; and for different purposes: they are 46% to gossip compared to 34% of men.

SMS at work
Among the respondents, 17% sent an SMS to inform that they were late; and 7% that they were sick.

SMS style
Only 13% of all respondents use text shorthand. There are more "shorthanders" (23%) among 18 to 29 year olds. The majority considers messages in shorthand hard to understand (54%).

Little enthusiasm for new 3G mobile services - Europe

It seems that scarce enthusiasm for UMTS/3G mobile services is shared across a large part of Europe.

Earlier in the year, a Harris Interactive online survey (via The Register) of 10.581 adults (9.865 are mobile users) in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, found that nearly half of mobile phone users (49%) were not interested in 3G services. Interest was the lowest in the UK at 60%. Almost half the respondents (44%) said that they would not use their mobile phones for more than voice calls. Again, this was the highest in the UK at 54%.

Among the factors that seem to contribute to the resistance to the new service are:

  • the belief that 3G will be expensive (55%)
  • the lack of understanding of the service (52%)
  • the fear of unreliable service (51%)   

11 December 2004

Little enthusiam for new 3G mobile services - Italy

Italians have been among the world most enthusiastic adopters of mobile telephony, and are among its keenest users. Beginning 2004, in Italy the number of mobile subscriptions was about 55 M. Even considering that most subscriptions are for prepaid accounts (according to the Italian Telecom Regulator, in 2002 80% were prepaid) and many people have more than one subscription, 55M is still a very large number of mobile subscriptions for a country of 58 M people.

How are Italians reacting to the Mobile Operators' UMTS offer of new data, multimedia, video mobile services?
The Corriere della Sera article, dated November 15th and titled Ricerca: il 31% vuole comprare un cellulare UMTS, does not report much excitement about this innovation. The article is based on a survey carried out by opinion research institute ISPO on behalf of Vodafone. It concerned a representative sample of 4198 people from age 14 who were interviewed at home between the 22 and 24 October of this year. Of these 4198 people, 2922 possess a cellular phone.

Existing mobile usage
Looking at current mobile usage, the survey finds that three services: voice (25%); voice and SMS (30%); voice, SMS and SMS push info (22%) account for more than three quarters of what mobile users do. Close to one in five mobile users (18%) also use photo or video services.

Knowledge of UMTS
The majority of interviewees (56%) have never heard of UMTS or 3rd generation technologies. A relatively large group (31%) have heard of them but don't really know what they are, while a smaller group knows what they are (13%). I find this finding puzzling as media and advertising have been talking about UMTS and 3rd generation on a regular basis since 1999.   

Interest for UMTS services
Asked to express their level of interest with respect to 5 services: richer communication; fast Internet navigation and email; always-on; downloading and listening to Hi-Fi music; gaming and real-time TV; the majority of interviewees expressed no or little interest in all five services. Services that were rated interesting where communication and fast Internet. Four out of ten respondents rated then as very (11%) or quite (29%) interesting.

Intention to buy a 3G-UMTS phone as next mobile phone
Close to half the interviewees say they do not intend to buy a UMTS-3G phone (for sure, 21%, probably not 23%) when they'll replace their current phone. One in three say they intend to: 26% say they probably will and 5% certainly will.      

08 November 2004

Communication technologies in the Arab World

Thanks to a recent post by emarketer titled The Mobile Middle East, I learnt about the Arab Advisors Group, a private market research and analysis company based in Amman, Jordan. Since 2001, the Arab Advisors Group studies the communications, media and technology markets in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, as a representative sample of the larger Arab World's media and telecom markets that it estimates at over 300M people in 22 countries; 41 mobile operators; 23 fixed operators; 36 datacomm operators and close to 300 ISPs.

I spent some time reading the summaries of recent reports looking for insights into how communication technologies are used in these countries.

Levels of connectivity
In terms of adoption and usage, the region appears to be far from homogeneous. The Arab Advisors Group calculates the Total Country Connectivity Measure as 1) households with fixed lines + 2) households with GSM subscriptions + 3) households with Internet users / total number of households. The Gulf countries, that is Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, emerge as being the most connected, whereas the Mediterranean countries, that is Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Morocco, are the least connected (April, 2004).

Offer and cost for ADSL conenction
The ADSL market is also very inhomogeneous. In the countries that have ADSL services - there are no ADSL services in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Palestine - the cost of a home ADSL connection varies from 24$/month in Egypt to 135$/month in Syria. Jawad Abbassi, head of the Arab Advisors Group comments: "That Egypt is the star in the Arab World in having the lowest ADSL cost is no surprise. The major ISP in the country are allowed to negotiate their own international bandwidth agreements and not to be tied to getting the bandwidth from the incumbent fixed operator. Moreover, these ISPs are allowed to collocate at Telecom Egypt's exchanges and use Telecom Egypt unbundled copper wires at reasonable rates". Looking at cost not in absolute, but relative terms, as a percentage of GDP per capita, the least affordable ADSL service is in Sudan, followed by Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and the most affordable is in Qatar. The cost of ADSL in Egypt is thus comparable in real terms to Interational rates, less dear than the other Arab countries, but still very expensive for Egyptians (September, 2004).

Internet access in Algeria
One report focuses on Algeria's ISP market and Internet adoption. After opening the ISP market in 1998, in the spring 2004, Algeria had 30 operational ISPs out of 91 authorized operators. Internet users were about 420.000 at the end of 2003, equivalent to a 1.31% penetration rate. The analyst Serene Zawaydeh writes "French is the main language used in Algerian websites. Most websites lack rich content and lack sophistication. Only few banks have online presence and there are still no Internet banking services in Algeria." (March, 2004)

Mobile communications in Saudi Arabia
Another report looks at Saudi Arabia's mobile telecom market and usages with a survey of 202 GSM-customer households (141 Saudis, and 61 non-Saudis) in Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Dhahran. We learn that practically all users (95%) have Arabic language handsets, use SMS (90%), while very few access the mobile Internet (less than 1.5%). Almost one out of two Mobile phone customers (42%) buys second-hand handsets. Handsets are replaced within less than a year. Familiarity with handsets features appears to be very limited (June, 2004). Overall, user-generated SMS account for most of mobile operators' data revenues, i.e. between 4 and 8% of total revenue.

Overall Internet audience and online advertising

Looking at Online advertising spending in the region, the Arab Advisors Group finds evaluates it to be between 8 and 10 M $, and very small compared to the 250 M $ spent on Satellite TV advertising. Two factors contribute to this gap: the satellite audience is much larger than the Internet audience, and it is also very largely a male audience (81%). It occurs that Satellite TV ads mostly target the female audience, which represents only 19% of the already small Internet audience.

Where: Arab World
When: 2004






Mid-2004 worldwide adoption of mobile telecom services

The numbers add up with GSM and WCDMA presents a synthetic worldwide view of mobile telecom services subscribers and analyses the case of GSM penetration in different geographical areas.




At the beginning of the year, there were more than 1 billion GSM subscribers. In June, this number had grown of another 11%.

The majority of GSM subscribers is still in Europe (500M) with Eastern Europe significantly contributing to the growth. There are more than 50M subscribers in Russia.

GSM users concentrate in China where there were 264M end of June, whereas in India, there were 30M GSM subscribers.

In the North, the number of GSM subscribers was 40.3M, of whom 37M were in the USA. In the Centre and South, there were 36M subscribers, of whom 11.7M are in Brazil.

The article indicates that a significant part of the mobile communication subscribers base growth is due to GSM and the new WCDMA standards.

Where: worldwide (except Africa)
When: June 2004


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