Mobile data usage is on the rise

Number of people that use mobile e-mail or access Internet via wireless phones is up 20 percent

Mobile data usage, including Internet access and wireless e-mail, is up compared to last year, according to a study by A.T. Kearney Inc. and the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School.

The study found that 53 percent of phones being used by 4,000 surveyed mobile users around the globe are data-enabled, compared to 49 percent in 2004. Armed with such data-capable phones, those customers are increasingly using online services, such as Internet or mobile e-mail access. In 2004, a similar study found that 36 percent of data-enabled phone owners used such services, but this year 56 percent of multimedia phone owners in the study used the Internet or mobile e-mail at least once a month.

Still, many mobile phone users say that they will continue to use their phones primarily for voice services only, although age determines that intention. For example, 80 percent of study respondents who were 65 years old or older said they'll use their phones only for voice. In the 35-year-old to 44-year-old age group, 60 percent said they won't use data services. At younger ages, however, that changes. Around 25 percent of mobile users in the study who were under 24-years-old said they'll use their phones only for voice.

One-third of multimedia phone owners in the study use MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to send media such as photos and video clips. Among younger users, age 19 to 24, half of multimedia phone users said they use MMS regularly. While those figures are up over last year, they're still small compared to SMS (Short Message Service) usage. Almost 90 percent of respondents with data-capable phones use SMS at least once a month, according to the study.

Music services are beginning to be used more frequently too. Among the surveyed multimedia phone owners, 33 percent said they download music, compared to 21 percent who said they did last year.

Mobile phone users are generally concerned about the cost of data services, however. Half of mobile phone users in the study said they aren't willing to pay more than US$5 a month on data services.

The study surveyed 4,000 mobile phone users in 21 countries in Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia. A.T. Kearney and the Judge Business School have regularly conducted a similar mobile phone study since 2000.

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