Global Mobile Commerce Growth – China & India Lead the World

In the past we’ve covered the huge rate of mobile growth in mature markets like North America and Europe.

Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than the internet did through the dot-com boom years of late the 1990s and early 2000s.  But that’s only the tip of the iceberg in the global story of mobile growth.

In emerging markets like India, China, Turkey and Brazil, mobile web use is growing at staggeringly fast rates with enormous overall numbers that dwarf mature markets.

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For example, U.S. mobile 3G subscriptions grew 26% last year.  Impressive, but nothing compared to growth in some international markets.

For instance, 3G subscriptions grew at the following rates in the emerging world:

  • 79% growth in Brazil
  • 104% growth in Turkey
  • 172% growth in China
  • 1050% growth in India

What’s even more interesting is the potential for growth that still remains in these markets.

While the U.S. still leads the globe in terms of the absolute number of subscribers, its 3G penetration is already at 56% of the total population.

China has only 11.3% penetration.  That’s 11.3% of 1.35 billion people.

With a burgeoning middle class, growing urban populations and lust for new technology, China and India’s mobile growth will continue to explode over the next few years.

To dig deeper into the Chinese market, we can look at China Unicom, China’s #2 carrier. They had 48.9 million 3G and 160.6 million 2G subscribers in March 2012.

In terms of aggregate numbers, this makes it about the same size as the 2 largest U.S. cellular providers, AT&T and Verizon, combined.

Having gained 24 million users since December 2011, it is predicted that China will hit 230-250 million 3G subscribers by the end of 2012.

Mobile: The only way to get online

In many places in the world, mobile devices are the only way to get online.

The mobile browser vendor Opera recently found that 56% of their users access the internet exclusively via their mobile devices.

Most of these users are from countries like Egypt, Bangladesh, Brazil, and South Africa where limited infrastructure outside of major cities makes wireless internet the easiest and cheapest way to get online.

The growth in those markets shows up prominently in the usage statistics – Opera generated 117 billion pageviews in 2011, up 96% from the 2010.

And there are many cases where the rest of the world is ahead of North America.

For example, smartphone shipments surpassed feature phone shipments in Q1 2011 in North America. In Western Europe? The same thing happened in early 2010. In Japan, the crossover only just happened in February 2012.

At the time of the crossover, comScore Japan’s vice-president Daizo Nishitanisaid, ” Japanese mobile phone users were already highly engaged with their devices, but with the added functionality and higher levels of mobile media consumption we should expect to see significant changes in behavior among the Japanese mobile population in 2012.”


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Overall around the world, smartphones comprise just under a billion of the 5.6 billion mobile phone subscribers overall.

Your website in the hands of the world

Looking through the data a few trends become very clear.

  • Mobile web usage is growing at a huge rate around the world.
  • High-speed mobile web subscriptions are growing at a huge rate and have enormous room to continue growing.
  • Smartphones with web browsers are the fastest-growing device types for high-speed mobile web subscribers around the world.
  • More and more people are accessing the internet primarily or exclusively on mobile.

All 4 of these trends show no sign of slowing or reversing. The mobile web wave that is sweeping the world will benefit those who are well positioned to ride it – and the best positioned are those with a mobile website.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: mobile is here to stay and the time to act is now.

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