New York, NY - Wireless Internet experienced an increase in usage of 145%, representing 79 million unique users, reported The Face of the Web, the annual study of Internet trends by Ipsos-Insight. Based on interviews in thirteen key global markets with more than 7,100 adults, including 3,250 active Internet users, recent findings from the study show that with growth in wireless Internet usage and digital devices, wireless Internet is poised to prosper substantially over the next few years. As users grow accustomed to integrating the online medium into their everyday lives, they are also increasingly demanding access to it from any place, at any time. While wireless Internet is still relatively in its infancy, there is already a significant wireless web audience: 134 million people have tried or used some form of wireless Internet through a mobile device, representing 40% of the total Internet population in the study's measured countries. "Internet users are not bound by tethers anymore," said Brian Cruikshank, Senior Vice President of Ipsos-Insight's Technology and Communications Practice and co-author of the study. "Wireless Internet trial and usage in leading-edge and advancing markets is rapidly expanding with double and, in many countries, triple-digit growth." The Explosion In Unplugged Digital Devices A number of factors are aiding the growth in wireless Internet usage. One key factor is the widespread use of wireless digital devices such as laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones. Close to 130 million households in the markets studied own a laptop, bringing the laptop-to-desktop-PC ratio to one laptop for every three desktop PCs. Furthermore, 8% of the household mobile phones have PDA functionality, enabling easier wireless Internet connectivity. Another device that could lead to exponential wireless online penetration is the mobile phone. Why the mobile phone? Mobile phones are inexpensive, portable, driven by displays and keys, and are increasingly providing the ability to exchange both voice and data. Moreover, `a mobile phone in every hand' is increasingly becoming a reality. In 2003, the number of households with mobile phones grew by a whopping 100 million, or 30%--five times the growth experienced by the PC industry. As people get used to mobile communication and online services, they may increasingly want to be able to do their favorite online activities on the go. As mobile phone penetration continues to increase, Internet-enabled handsets will likely become commonplace. Wireless Activities Similar To Wired Activities The type of devices people carry will ultimately determine the kinds of activities they will perform. Generally, activities performed by current users of wireless Internet are analogous to those carried out by users of wired PCs. Non-verbal communication, such as email and SMS (Short Messaging Service, or text messaging), top the list of activities carried out by mobile Internet users. At least one in ten users engaged in wireless photo messaging, gaming, instant messaging, or browsing. Overall, e-commerce usage is relatively low (6%), due to functional and security limitations with wireless Internet. Once the industry overcomes security concerns, pipeline limitations, and capacity issues, and establishes ubiquitous location based systems that permit `anytime; anywhere' accessibility, use of wireless Internet will extend beyond data communication to resemble the range of activities performed on wired lines. Wi-Fi Key To Wireless On-the-Fly Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, is thought by many to be the means of overcoming the current limitations with wireless Internet. Wi-Fi offers Internet service at much higher bandwidth than current wireless technologies and permits broadcasting an Internet connection over a 300-foot radius. Wi-Fi hotspots have already become a vital part of the mobile Internet users' point of connectivity in many parts of the world. On average globally, one in four people have heard of Wi-Fi technology. Awareness levels vary by region and are highest in urban China, Japan, North America, Germany, and France. In urban China, close to one in ten people have accessed the Internet using Wi-Fi, while in Japan and the U.S., one in twenty people have logged on over wireless local area networks (WLAN). As Wi-Fi technology and hot spots become more prevalent, the use of mobile phones, PDAs, and laptops to connect to the Internet in an untethered fashion should increase dramatically. Wi-Fi May Change The Face Of Wireless Communication Accessing data is not the only possibility Wi-Fi may offer to the world; there is one other side to Wi-Fi that could potentially replace both wired and wireless phone communications in the future. This facet is Voice over Wi-Fi, which means the ability to place phone calls over the Internet wirelessly. As with many technologies, business users will likely be the first to acquire new wireless Internet services and devices, as mobile employees have a greater need for communication and high-speed wireless Internet capabilities. General consumers will no doubt continue to engage in wireless Internet communication and entertainment until it reaches critical mass with the widespread access of hotspots. For many in developing countries, wireless Internet access may in fact become the primary access point, perhaps through a mobile phone/PDA device, jumping many phases of the technology evolution curve experienced by users of wired PCs--a jump that can be equated with bypassing the wired telecommunication infrastructure in favor of wireless networks. Of course, there could be one wrench in all this. It comes in the form of spam, Trojan Horses, and viruses, which may explain why many large technology and software companies are racing to enhance network security. Methodology The Face of the Web 2003 study was conducted in October 2003 among a random sample of approximately 7,100 adults in urban Brazil, Canada, urban China, France, Germany, urban India, Japan, urban Mexico, urban Russia, South Korea, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S. The results of the survey were published in a 135-slide report by Ipsos-Insight in December 2003. The Face of the Web 2003 study also examined:
- Equipment and technologies used to access the Internet, as they relate to future home networking possibilities
- Both wired and wireless activities performed
- Types of connectivity (i.e., broadband cable, DSL, dial-up modem, etc.) and trends in emerging technologies such as Wi-Fi
- Extent of wireless Internet connectivity, types of wireless devices in use, and intentions for adopting Internet-enabled wireless Internet technologies
- Global Internet awareness, trial and usage within thirteen key markets around the world
- Barriers to Internet usage, future plans to go online and implications of Internet growth.