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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Business

Lower costs drawing users to mobile internet

A visitor tries out a Blackberry mobile phone at the CommunicAsia 2008 exhibition in Singapore yesterday. Lower costs are drawing more and more users to access the Internet via their mobiles, and opening up opportunities for advertisers. Photo: AFP

Lower costs are drawing more and more users to access the Internet via their mobiles, and opening up opportunities for advertisers, industry players said Tuesday.

Flat rates for data are becoming increasingly common, and mobile devices for accessing Internet content are more widely available, said Andre Levisse, of management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

"It becomes cheaper and cheaper to just get one megabyte of data and that enables, probably, some change in the user behaviour," he said during a panel discussion at the start of the CommunicAsia conference in Singapore.

The event bills itself as the region's leading information and communications technology conference and exhibition.

Richard Tan, business director of Telkomsel Indonesia, agreed data plan prices have been dropping.

"I think connectivity is now more affordable," Tan said.

Personal computers are too expensive for users in many markets, said Niren Hiro, vice-president of business development with Admob, a mobile advertising marketplace.

"So I think generally there are going to be a lot of first-time users who go to their phone for content," he said.

Internet-capable handsets have also become cheaper.

"Many people can afford good handsets that can really browse the Web," said Levisse, adding that even second-hand 3G models are now available in the region.

On the eve of the conference, Finnish telecom giant Nokia launched two new email-capable handsets for business users, and South Korea's Samsung unveiled its latest smart phone, a touch-screen model.

Last week Apple unveiled its touch-screen-activated 3G iPhone built for high-speed wireless networks, with faster Internet access and more features for users than its previous iPhone.

"I know that there's been disappointments in the past" over digital content, said Mauro Montanaro, chief executive officer of Jamba, a global provider of mobile entertainment including music, videos and games.

"The key problem today is most of the users do not know about the services on content," he added. "Our challenge is marketing."

Montanaro, whose company is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., added that mobile content from big media companies "has been lacking so far."

David Ko, vice president of Yahoo! Connected Life, Asia Pacific, said more work needs to be done on developing an "open platform" that would allow publishers to write content for different operating systems and different browsers.

Yahoo! has focussed on making mobile Internet searches easier through its oneSearch service, Ko said.

On Tuesday the company launched in Singapore and India oneSearch with voice, allowing English-speakers to search by speaking into BlackBerry mobile devices.

While the industry tries to offer more entertainment options and easier access, there is great potential for mobile advertising growth, the panelists said.

"Mobile advertising is the future," Montanaro said.

But the key, said Ko, is "how to make it a reality without degrading the user experience.

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