The Mobile Internet is no longer a mystery in South Africa, after the announcement of a formal framework for defining the use of the Internet on cellphones.
For several years, the question of how many South Africans use the Internet from their cellphones has been veiled in confusion, with claimed numbers ranging from half a million to 15-million.
During the past year, representatives of two of the key players in the debate, World Wide Worx and the South African Mobile Marketing Association, agreed to a formal framework within which they would report the key statistics for Internet usage and access on cellphones.
The framework consist of three tiers, namely:
Tier 1: The WAP Internet (access to WAP gateways, which includes mobile versions of brand sites, mobile versions of traditional and new media publisher sites, downloads of ringtones, games and other content, which may only involve a single link from the phone: the typical user of the WAP Internet is not always aware of using the Internet).
Tier 2: The Mobile Application Internet (usage of ‚stand-alone‚ applications on the phone that rely on data feeds, such as Mxit, Gmail, and Maps: the typical user is aware of using data, but not of fully accessing the Internet)
Tier 3: Mobile Web Browsing (usage of a web browser to access the World Wide Web from the phone ‚ understood by most users to represent full Internet access)
The framework was developed by World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck and Mobile Marketing Association founding chairman Rick Joubert. It is intended to accommodate the main perspectives that usually emerge in debates around the makeup of the mobile Internet.
‚It resolves the dilemma that some appear to hype up the mobile Internet while others appear to underplay it, when in fact everyone is talking about different elements of the mobile Internet,‚ says Goldstuck.
‚Defining the mobile Internet is important,‚ says Joubert. ‚Neither one of the mobile Internet usage tiers is any more important than the other, but decision-makers and marketers should understand the nature of the end user experience as clearly as possible.‚
According to the Mobile Internet in South Africa 2010 study, released today by World Wide Worx, almost all urban cellular users have WAP-capable phones, and a high proportion have used that WAP capability to access a variety of internet based content on a regular basis, but many without realising they were doing so.
Mobile web browsing is measured directly in the new study, and accounts for 3.36-million users at the end of 2009. The Mobile Application Internet is measured across several applications, including instant messaging, downloadable applications, Internet applications, and e-mail. The Mobile Application Internet user base is estimated at about 9-million.
‚This does not mean marketers can target 9-million Internet users via their cellphones,‚ warns Goldstuck. ‚They would have to target the individual applications that make up that total, which means that the Mobile Application Internet is not a readily addressable market.‚
‚The media opportunity represented by the three tiers of the mobile web is quite fragmented and not easy to exploit, but that barrier in itself has presented a fantastic opportunity for early adopter brands who have embraced the medium,‚ says Joubert. ‚It has also offered opportunities for aggregators of the medium, such as application stores and advertising networks like AdMob and Buzz City, and for the very large publishers like Mxit, all of whom are able to offer marketers very significant reach.‚
The Mobile Internet in SA 2010 study, backed by First National Bank, was conducted face to face among urban cellphone users aged 16 and older, representing 16-million South Africans.