Mobile broadband usage surges in 2009


Multimedia use over broadband - especially mobile broadband - appears to be skyrocketing, if a report by UK regulator Ofcom is to be believed. Data usage soared so much in both the fixed and mobile broadband markets that audio and video must be at least partly responsible. Survey of the UK population found that total data volumes over the Internet infrastructure increased by 68%. Data volumes over mobile networks increased by an astonishing 240% throughout the course of the last year.

UK consumers are now using a single device (usually a mobile phone) for more than one type of media and communications use, Ofcom found. This ties in with a dramatic growth in the ownership of smart phones. The number of smart phone users in the UK grew by 81% between May 2009 and May this year, reaching 12.8 million. Over a quarter of people in the UK now have a smart phone, and in Q1 2010 23% of adults accessed content or sent emails on their mobile phones. 

Perhaps even more significant is the use of mobile broadband for accessing online content among younger users. This is particularly relevant to businesses who find themselves competing for this audience's attention. Forty-five percent of people between 15 and 24 sent emails or accessed content using their mobile phones, and the signs are that many younger people are switching to mobile broadband as their primary means of communication. Take-up of mobile broadband increased by 8% in the last year between 15-24-year-olds in the UK. Three percent of 35-54-year-olds adopted mobile broadband. Younger people are the engine for mobile broadband services, the survey concluded. 

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If businesses want to appeal to this audience, they must find a way to engage with them via this new medium. This creates significant challenges for organisations, who will want to explore phenomena such as mobile social gaming, location-based services, mobile webisodes and viral video as marketing tools.

Statistics suggest that companies playing this game will be courting an increasingly distracted audience. Younger users are so driven to use broadband services that they tend to engage in more than one activity at a time when using them. On average, 16-24-year-olds consumed 9.5 hours of media in just 6.5 hours of actual time, the survey found. Only a quarter of the time that they spend on their mobile phones is taken up with voice calls.

The message for companies promoting branding, products and services to younger users is clear: get online, get mobile, and get bold in your statements. Appeal to mobile youth with eye-catching offerings that stand out from the crowd. And those with limited budgets would be well-advised to emphasise the use of these mobile channels at the expense of others, such as print advertising. 

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.