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Mobile Data Association announces findings on UK mobile phone usage

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The Mobile Data Association (MDA), the non profit UK association for vendors and users of mobile data and their advisors, has today announced its latest quarterly data report on mobile phone usage across the UK.  The report covers activity from January - May 2008 for Text Messaging (SMS), Mobile Internet (MI) and Picture and Video Messaging (MMS) and identifies new trends in the way people are increasingly relying on their mobile phones.

According to the MDA, all three measured metrics continue to grow; SMS has again surpassed expectations with 1.4 billion text messages being sent in the UK every week.  SMS has established itself as a true social connecting tool and continues to have mass consumer appeal, at the same time there are signs of SMS being applied in commercial applications which will see the volume continue to rise, says the MDA.

Mobile Internet has seen steady growth in the UK; 16.5 million people accessed the mobile internet in May 2008.  This represents a 25 per cent growth since May 2006, indicating an average 4,500 new users every day. Picture and video messaging (MMS) is showing excellent and sustained growth, with volumes rising steadily supported by some interesting seasonal peaks.  10 million picture messages are sent every week in the UK and year-on-year growth is at 30 per cent.

According to the MDA, the growth can be attributed to a number of factors such as; the increased number of mobile devices with picture and video messaging capabilities and the emphasis placed on ease of sharing images via the mobile networks.

The outlook for mobile data usage remains very positive, says MDA.  The moves by mobile operators to offer all inclusive tariffs will stimulate further growth and with predicted lower roaming charges, this will also drive usage.  The MDA expects to see SMS growth of around 30% in 2008.

New operator pricing combined with new function-rich, internet enabled devices such as the iPhone and Nokia N95, are key to driving adoption of mobile internet access.  There are powerful signs all around that mobile internet access will supersede traditional PC access; a recent US study indicated that iPhone owners were responsible for 1 in 1,000 web page views last month.  The MDA is predicting that mobile internet will become a true rival for traditional desktop internet access, with growth of around 20% being seen in 2009.
 
Assessing the findings of the MDA's Q2 report, Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca, said: "It is well understood and been demonstrated in recent years that the mobile phone has become one of the three most important items people carry - along with keys and a wallet or purse - when heading outside.  For business or personal use, it is no longer simply a mobile equivalent of the fixed phone, but a pocketable tool for remote control and connection across several modes of communication.

The access and sharing of snippets of information while on the move has become part of working and personal lives.  It started with voice, then expanded to text - which as MDA figures have consistently demonstrated has grown astronomically over time - and now most recently has grown into richer messaging media and mobile access to the internet.  While these are still in their early stages, with some aspects of the technology still evolving, adoption looks set to follow similar paths to other communication and media formats."

The growth of text messaging is also said to continue to defy expectation.  The growth curve is set to continue as new devices promote messaging applications at the centre of their functionality.  1.4 billion text messages are now sent every week in the UK alone. 

Steve Reynolds, Chairman of the Mobile Data Association comments: "Text messaging has been without question one of the great success stories of the mobile age both for the industry and consumer.  With announcements this month around reduced cost of sending and receiving text messages abroad, this type of mobile operator action will only act to stimulate further growth.  In 2008 we are increasingly seeing other applications come into focus for business and consumer use.  Mobile e-mail and instant messaging represent new communication mediums but mobile operators need to simplify set-up and access to encourage adoption.

"Picture and video messaging volumes are gathering real pace. The proliferation of camera enabled devices has been key, but improved and automated settings around MMS set up have made the process simpler for the end user.  The mobile phone now goes with us all everywhere; the seasonal trend of sending holiday messages is testament to that."

Mobile Internet usage has has also grown 25% in the past two years, Reynolds continues: "There remain a number of challenges that mobile operators need to address to accelerate the growth of Mobile Internet.  The MDA is calling for greater price transparency on the costs associated with using the Mobile Internet.  The findings of this report suggest a real consumer appetite, but confusion and fear over costs may be holding back growth."