Mobile internet set to take off

The mobile internet is finally ripe for take-off, prompting a new focus on mobile advertising, Ofcom said in its annual Communications Market Report.

The communications regulator identified a number of preconditions for a surge in mobile internet use, which have now been met: first, 3G use has become more widespread, with over 7.8 million connections in 2006; second, the large majority of handsets now have internet capability; third, the cost of mobile internet browsing has fallen; and finally, mobile operators are at last offering services comparable to those available via fixed-line internet.

As a result, mobile advertising and the power of “the brand in the hand” are moving from hype to reality, as operators choose either to partner with online advertising providers such as Google and Yahoo! or to explore opportunities for advertiser-funded content.

According to Ofcom, the mobile handset has the highest substitution impact on stand-alone devices. Each person now consumes more than seven hours of media and communications services cumulatively per day; however, the tendency to consume some media simultaneously means the actual time spent on media is likely to be lower.

Advertisers will also be alarmed by news that 78% of adults with a digital video recorder (DVR) said they always, or almost always, fast-forward through advertising when watching recorded programmes. Ofcom said that 15% of UK households own a DVR.

Elsewhere in the document, the second of its three major reports this year, Ofcom pointed to a demographic shift in internet usage towards “digital mums” and “silver surfers”. According to Nielsen//Net Ratings data for April 2007, women aged 18-34 are the most active internet users by time spent. At the other end of the age scale, over-50s, who make up 41% of the UK population, now account of nearly 30% of all time spent on the internet.

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