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Chapter Highlights from ITU Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation

Chapter ThreeMarket trends  

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“The mobile Internet should not be considered as a substitute for the fixed-line Internet…”

There are a number of factors that will enable the rapid and successful development of the mobile Internet. First and foremost, the rapid deployment of high-speed 3G networks will be crucial to the facilitation of mobile multimedia services. Second, the availability and affordability of adequate Internet-enabled handsets will be a prerequisite for users. Third, unrestricted and non-proprietary mobile Internet content needs to be fostered; players should be discouraged from imposing commercial restrictions on content providers or establishing “walled gardens” of content. Finally, simple and transparent billing models are required, taking into account the difference between voice and data services and the growing importance of content. In all cases, the mobile Internet should not be considered as a substitute for the fixed-line Internet. Usage patterns and requirements for Internet browsing via mobile devices differ significantly from those of the traditional Internet.

Nevertheless, valuable insights can be gleaned from the evolution of the fixed-line Internet, notably relating to its early development.  Initially, users were charged per-minute for browsing the Internet.  In most countries, operators then moved to a subscription model with call charges for time spent on-line.  In countries where local calls are unlimited, like the United States and Canada, flat-rate plans were introduced. Countries in Europe and Asia soon followed suit in the late 1990s. It can be said that the mobile Internet is following a similar trajectory.  In the early days of WAP over GSM, users were billed for every minute they spent on-line. i-mode combines monthly subscription with volume or packet-based billing. Always-on GPRS billing has evolved with the introduction of volume-based charges. With high-bandwidth applications and increased spectrum efficiency, will flat rates become the norm for mobile data, as they have done for fixed data? Flat-rate schemes for data services are already being considered by a number of mobile operators. But users will have to wait some time before these become widely available.

With regard to content, the fixed-line Internet established a tradition of largely free and non-proprietary information access though this is now changing.  In particular, virtually unlimited messaging (e-mail) is still available free of charge. Mobile communications, by contrast, have always come at a premium. Users seem quite willing to pay per message for SMS, per packet for i-mode content and premium rates for voice calls while roaming. Moreover, a direct relationship exists between the individual user and the mobile operator, facilitating billing for a variety of add-on services. This was not typically the case with fixed Internet access. On the whole, this bodes well for the future of paid digital content services on mobile devices. Combined with high worldwide mobile penetration and short-range technologies, it may mean greater success for mobile business-to-consumer commerce than has hitherto been seen over the fixed-line Internet. Figure 3 shows 3G subscribers and handset sales of the two earliest 3G pioneers, Japan and Korea.

Figure 3: Early 3G pioneers  


Republic of Korea  

Note: In Korea, there are no subscription charges for mobile Internet services (CDMA IS-95, CDMA2000 1x and 1x-EV-DO). The figures show the number of handsets theoretically capable of supporting these services.

Source: ITU.  


Relevant links

ITU IMT-2000 portal

ITU Working Party on IMT-2000 and Systems beyond IMT-2000

ITU Website on Licensing Policy for 3G Mobile

UMTS Forum

GSM Association

CDMA Development Group


MPHPT (Japan)

 CDMA Development Group (CDG)

 “Roam: Making Sense of the Wireless Internet”, B. Guissani, Random House, 2001.


iTouch UK

Tele 2 

Virgin Mobile

 “Licensing of Third Generation (3G) Mobile: Briefing Paper”, International Telecommunication Union, 2001

Club Nokia

Vodafone/Vivendi portal “Vizzavi”




France Telecom



3Com website

Open Mobile Alliance 


Mobile Payment Forum

Manx Telecom is an mmO2 (ex-British Telecom) subsidiary

WAP Forum website

SMS from Lycos

International Telecommunication Users Group (INTUG)  


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