Half of mobile customers in emerging markets to own smartphones by 2017

Nearly half of all mobile-phone customers in emerging markets will be using smartphones by 2017, compared with just a fifth today, according to new research from Ovum.

The market-research company says demand for mobile internet services in urban areas of emerging markets will drive the adoption of some two billion smartphones by 2017.

Encouraging that development is the lack of fixed internet infrastructure in many emerging-market countries, as well as the growing purchasing power of consumers living in urban areas.

Nearly half of all mobile-phone customers in emerging markets will be using smartphones by 2017, compared with just a fifth today, according to new research from Ovum.

The market-research company says demand for mobile internet services in urban areas of emerging markets will drive the adoption of some two billion smartphones by 2017.

Encouraging that development is the lack of fixed internet infrastructure in many emerging-market countries, as well as the growing purchasing power of consumers living in urban areas.

“The rising ownership of smart devices is not just giving some consumers access to the Internet for the first time; the wide availability of these devices will also increasingly divert traffic to the mobile web,” said Shiv Putcha, a principal analyst at Ovum. “Operators and content providers now have an important role to play in helping the next billion transition from basic voice and SMS functionality, to their initial steps with mobile browsers, and ultimately to smart experiences on the mobile Internet.”

Ovum says operators could aid the adoption of mobile internet services in these markets by simplifying their data access pricing and catering to the large community of prepaid customers.

“The next billion consumers are typically highly value conscious; tariff complexity combined with potential bill shock will deter prospective mobile internet users,” said Putcha. “These consumers will expect variety and simplicity in access packages and look for unlimited, time-based, and content-based packages.”

The market-research organization also encourages content providers to develop localized services due to strong cultural identities and preference for local languages in emerging markets.

Content providers should also partner with operators on billing, recommends Ovum, allowing customers to spend smaller amounts over longer periods and overcoming the limitations of current payment methods.