Global trends in mobile: Asia rising and the ‘mobile-first’ internet

Mobile phone users in India

Double Line – Chatting at Dadar by Meena Kadri @ Flickr

Think mobile’s big today? Well, it’s poised for substantially more growth over the next four years, with over one billion additional people forecast to be connected to mobile networks by 2020.

That’s according to mobile operators’ trade association the GSMA, which expects India and China to lead the charge as Asia becomes the ‘growth engine’ for the mobile ecosystem.

During that time it says India will add 337 million more mobile users with 200 additional subscribers expected in China, but Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar will also make significant contributions.

All told, the GSMA says the six countries will account for approximately 60% of the 1.1 billion new subscribers added globally by the end of the decade.

Its recent Global Mobile Trends report also notes:

The geographic shift in where the connected consumer resides doesn’t just mean more people using mobile phones in new places.

They are younger, own fewer big-ticket items such as cars and houses (and therefore carry less debt) and are more likely to be mobile-first or mobile-only internet users.

This places an added importance on innovation in how to reach these consumers on mobile, with anything from captivating entertainment to lifestyle and productivity services such as health or employment searching.

Sure, the description of ‘health’ as a ‘lifestyle service’ is an odd one, but the point about the necessity of an innovative mobile approach shouldn’t be ignored.

These new subscribers are also more likely to be either ‘mobile-first’ or ‘mobile-only’ internet users.

In fact, over the next four years more people will access the internet via a mobile phone than through a PC for the first time – in 2016 some 46% of the world goes online through their mobile, a figure that’s forecast to reach 60% by 2020.

Underpinning this is the rise of the smartphone. In Europe 60% of mobiles are smartphones, while in the US that figure is 70% and it’s even higher in Japan and South Korea.

China is already at the lower end of these levels, and forecast to reach 73% by 2020 (Europe is predicted to reach 76% and the US 78% by then).

Meanwhile, Myanmar has already virtually skipped the feature phone generation following its telecoms liberalisation in 2013. For the other emerging Asian players smartphone adoption levels of 50-70% of feature phone connections are anticipated by the GSMA by 2020.

• Download the GSMA’s Global Mobile Trends report

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