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Wireless Surfer Numbers Grow

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Proving that Internet users are more than “mouse potatoes” are reports from comScore Networks, Inc. estimating that 10 million Americans surf from cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). The research firm has found that of the 19.1 million users owning a PDA, 5 million access the Internet with those devices, and among the 67.2 million online users that own a cell phone, 5.8 million access the Internet with those devices.

“Although wireless Internet usage is still in its relative infancy, these data prove there already is a significant wireless Web audience,” said Peter Daboll, division president of comScore Media Metrix. “While there are more Internet users with cell phones, a much higher proportion of PDA owners report using those devices to go online. These usage rates warrant careful monitoring, both by manufacturers as they develop new devices and by publishers and marketers as they evaluate wireless strategies.”

Other findings from comScore’s research include:

  • Males comprise 72 percent (6.5 million) of the Internet users who access the Internet via a cell phone or PDA, while women comprise 28 percent (3.4 million). This compares to the total Internet population, where 48 percent (45.3 million) are male and 52 percent (48.3 million) are women.
  • Persons age 18-34 represent 53 percent (5.3 million) of online users who access the Internet via cell phone or PDA, while persons 35-54 represent 42 percent (4.2 million) and persons 55 and older represent four percent (400,000). This compares to the total Internet population, where 40 percent (37.6 million) are 18-34; 46 percent (42.8 million) are 35-54; and 14 percent (13.2 million) are 55 and older.
  • Internet users with annual household income less than $60,000 comprise 41 percent (4.1 million) of those who go online via a cell phone or PDA, while those with annual household income of more than $60,000 represent 59 percent (5.8 million). This skews somewhat further toward high-income households than the total Internet population, where 51 percent (47.7 million) have a household income less than $60,000 and 49 percent (45.9 million) have a household income greater than $60,000.
  • Among the surveyed 29 categories and 71 subcategories of online media, gay/lesbian sites have the highest concentration of Internet users that access the Internet with a cell phone or PDA (30 percent). Next in line are: car-rental sites at 17 percent; directories-classified sites at 16 percent; retail-movie sites at 16 percent; and retail-tickets at 16 percent.
  • While 11 percent of all Web-based e-mail users access the Internet via a cell phone or PDA, users of certain mail services have a notably greater propensity toward this application. The corresponding figure is 16 percent for users of Netscape Webmail, 15 percent for AOL.com Email, 13 percent for MSN Hotmail while 11 percent for Yahoo! Mail.
  • While 11 percent of instant-message users access the Internet via a cell phone or PDA, that figure is 14 percent for MSN Messenger, 13 percent for Yahoo! Messenger, 13 percent for AOL’s ICQ and 10 percent for AOL’s AIM.
  • 12 percent of visitors to news sites also access the Internet via a cell phone or PDA, though certain sites draw disproportionately higher percentages of wireless Web users, including: Wall Street Journal Interactive at 17 percent; Boston.com at 16 percent; CNN.com at 15 percent; and NYTimes.com at 14 percent.

“This first release of wireless usage data among active Internet users reveals distinct demographic characteristics and online behaviors that make this audience especially desirable to digital marketers,” said Daboll.

Further research comes from Computer Industry Almanac Inc.’s analysis of Internet usage across more than 50 countries indicating that of the 1.12 billion Internet users projected for the end of 2005, a significant number will be using wireless devices such as Web-enabled cell phones and PDAs to go online. The wireless devices will be supplemental to PC Internet access for most users in developed countries, and the primary Internet access devices in countries with low Internet penetration.

Wireless Internet Usage and Projections
Year-End 2001 2004 2007
Internet Users (millions) 149 193 236
Wireless Internet User Share 4.5% 27.9% 46.3%
Internet Users (millions) 533 945 1,460
Wireless Internet User Share 16.0% 41.5% 56.8%
Internet Users (millions) 115 357 612
Wireless Internet User Share 34.8% 50.9% 60.4%
W. Europe      
Internet Users (millions) 126 208 290
Wireless Internet User Share 13.9% 49.6% 67.0%
Source: Computer Industry Almanac

“The wireless Internet will take off when always-on service and useful content for the small displays of wireless devices are available,” says Dr. Egil Juliussen, Computer Industry Almanac Inc. “The rapid take off will be due to millions of ‘dormant’ or Web-enabled cell phones that are only used for voice services. As the wireless Internet user experience improves, an increasing portion of the dormant web phones will become active wireless Internet devices.”

Computer Industry Almanac Inc. also predicts explosive growth in the usage of PDA phones over the next five years. Coupling a Web cell phone with PDA functionality, the device will grow from only 230,000 units in 2000 to nearly 19 million units in 2007 for a compound annual growth rate of 87.5 percent worldwide. The U.S. alone will account for almost 5.5 million sales by 2007.

The firm expects PDA capabilities to improve impressively by 2007, eventually becoming a multifunction device with built-in Internet access, digital camera, music player, scanner and other functionality. The hardware capabilities of the typical 2007 PDA will be similar to the 2001 low-end PC.

“Phone-PDA growth will follow the growth of 2.5G and 3G cellular networks because they need always-on packet networks to be useful”, says Juliussen. “Phone-PDAs have shown early success in Europe and the market is likely to grow strongly in 2002 and 2003 in the USA and parts of Asia”.

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