Low Internet usage remains a problem across Europe, despite the frenzy surrounding free Internet access, according to research by Jupiter Communications.
The total number of online households in Western Europe will triple over the next five years, increasing from 14 million at the end of 1998 to 47 million by 2003 (31 percent penetration), Jupiter found. This increase will further narrow, but not close the gap between Western Europe and the US in terms of total household online.
According to Jupiter, subscription-free Internet access has helped boost European consumer usage of the Net, but European businesses must work to motivate consumers to spend time online despite Europe’s metered charges for local telephone usage.
Subscription-free access services, such as Dixon’s FreeServe in the UK, provide consumers with Internet access for the cost of a local phone call and have brought a considerable number of European households online. Free services have not eliminated all the barriers to European Internet usage.
“There is a misconception that the European Internet market is simply one or two years behind the US, however, structural differences exist between the two markets,” said Jupiter’s Phil Dwyer. “Telephone usage is metered and that alone will continue to hold back the growth of online advertising, content, and commerce ventures in Europe by inhibiting Internet usage.”
According to Jupiter’s Noah Yasskin, companies should adopt “free-to-air” strategies (free access, unlimited use) to take advantage of the continued market growth. “Free-to-air” business models can embrace advertising, commerce, and content partners to increase usage, adoption, and gain market share.
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