Potential Users Unaware of Wireless Services

The awareness of Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems (UMTS), better known as 3G [definition], remains low among potential users of wireless services in the United States, according to a study by Taylor Nelson Sofres Telecoms, Europe.

The study, which covers 13 countries, found that approximately 89 percent of mobile phone or Internet users in the United States are unaware of or feel poorly informed about wireless Internet technology. This compares with 86 percent in Britain, 77 percent in Italy and 54 percent in Germany.

There also appears to be only limited interest in using wireless Internet technology among respondents in the United States, according to the study. On a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 representing high interest), the average interest score across all 13 markets surveyed was just over 3.0. The score in the United States was slightly less, at 2.9.

Among the most popular potential wireless services mentioned by respondents are “receiving and sending emails” and “accessing city maps…(or)…the latest news.” Among the least popular services were “playing interactive games…(or)…games to win money.”

The survey also discovered wide differences in mobile phone ownership across all markets surveyed. For example, in the United States 36 percent of those 15 years and older own a mobile telephone compared with more than 69 percent in Britain and 59 percent in Germany.

Other findings from the Taylor Nelson Sofres survey include:

  • Only 10 percent of Internet or mobile phone users in the United States feel that they are ‘well informed’ or ‘fairly informed’ about UMTS. This compares with 44 percent in Germany and 23 percent in Italy.
  • Male mobile phone or Internet users under 35 years of age showed the greatest interest in using wireless Internet services.
  • Only 6 percent of mobile phone users in the United States said they send a text message at least once a week. This percentage is extremely low in comparison with most European markets, with 56 percent in UK, 55 percent in Germany and 58 percent in Belgium. Interestingly, while text messaging in Europe is most popular among those under 25 years of age, in the United States its popularity is evenly spread across those under 50 years of age.

Not surprisingly, text messaging across all of the markets surveyed is most popular among those under the age of 25. More than 90 percent of mobile phone users in the European markets surveyed say they send text messages via mobile phones, compared with just 20 percent in the United States.

“We’ve known that the U.S. is well behind Europe in terms of the adoption of mobile telecommunication technology,” said John Schiela, senior vice president of TNS Telecom. “This recent study quantifies this, since European mobile users are almost 10 times more likely to send text messages than their American counterparts. The future of UMTS in the United States hinges not only on awareness and desire, but on the consumer’s willingness to pay for these value added services.”

And it’s not just consumers. According to a study by InfoTech, enterprises are just beginning to investigate seriously the potential for wireless applications. The InfoTech survey of enterprise decision makers on their plans and needs regarding wireless applications found that most respondents expect to decide this year how to get started with wireless, with initial deployment slated for 2002. The survey also found that wireless expenditures, as a percentage of an overall IT budget, remain small, but are expected to jump from 3.7 percent in 2000 to 7.7 percent next year.

The InfoTech study also cautions wireless service providers that they may be missing the boat with their potential customers.

“We see a disconnect in the market, with suppliers continuing to overreach and elaborate upon the same large vision, and enterprises wanting to learn from a small introductory experience,” said Shelly Tyler Radler, senior analyst at InfoTech.

It’s no secret that only a small percentage of mobile users in the United States are utilizing wireless data. According to ResearchPortal.com, only 2 percent of U.S. handhelds are being used to send and receive data. The problem lies in the number of factors that make mobile Internet access an unattractive proposition, including the expense, spotty coverage and the lack of bandwidth. ResearchPortal’s analysis found that wireless data will not proliferate until people need it and it becomes a total no-brainer.

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