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The Net goes mobile in a big way

The mobile Internet market is beginning to boom with the arrival of wireless broadband, and phone makers, telecoms companies and Internet service providers have a fight on their hands to control it. Read more on this by Rahul Sharma.
By Rahul Sharma | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 09, 2008 08:28 PM IST

There is a battle building up out there and it’s got to do with that little mobile phone you carry around as an extension of your limbs. The mobile Internet market is beginning to boom with the arrival of wireless broadband, and phone makers, telecoms companies and Internet service providers have a fight on their hands to control it.

In India, mobile Internet users outnumber desktop web users by three to one. Some might say this is a phenomenon seen in a developing country due to poor telecommunication infrastructure; the truth is that it is happening everywhere. In Japan, more than 53 million people use mobile phone to access the Net — a number almost equal to the people who use computers.

Gone are the days when you had to peer into a small black-and-white screen to read very gray messages over a painfully slow connection that took eons to download information. The phones today are smarter, faster, and cheaper with larger screen and work on platforms that allow you faster downloads and easy reading.

Improvements in wireless bandwidth and a new bunch of mobile browsers that have appeared on the scene are making things easier for both content providers and consumers. Skyfire (http://www.skyfire.com/product), for example, is a browser/proxy solution that gives you a full Web experience. Mozilla, the guys who made Firefox, have also unveiled their prototypes of a mobile browser.

And do try the new iPhone, which is still not legally available here but is a popular buy in the thriving gray market. Its large screen coupled with Apple’s browser makes it a good platform to access Internet — closer to the desktop experience than ever before.

By the way, the Android’s coming too. There is a good chance that visitors to this week’s World Mobile Congress in Barcelona might get to see prototypes of Gphone that are built on a Google open software Android platform. There’s a new experience waiting for mobile Internet users and a market worth billions of dollars that is exciting companies.

The big battle for revenues and users will be in developing markets where the number of broadband subscribers is not as high as in developed markets. There are 10 times more people in countries like India and China who access the Web on their mobile phones — whether it is downloading games, ring tones, songs or sending mail — than on desktops.

Again, look at the numbers. In North America, according to figures available on the Internet, the 246 million mobile subscribers far outnumbered the 60 million business and consumer broadband subscribers in 2006. According to the independent technology research firm, the Yankee Group, the mobile Internet market is expected to grow at a rate of 34.5 per cent in India and 13.2 per cent in China over the next four years. It projects the global consumer mobile Internet services market to be worth more than $66 billion annually against the $9.5 billion it has touched.

This kind of growth means that a large number of people who currently don’t have access to affordable and reliable mobile Internet services would become part of a growth story, which has just about started to be written.

So if you haven’t yet browsed the web on your phone you might want to try. Believe me, it's not such a bad idea after all. Do check out the download cost to ensure that the bill doesn’t surprise you.

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