After the initial success of cellphones, it became clear that the cellphone would ultimately open up access to the internet for the masses in South Africa.
Given that there are less than two million broadband and ADSL lines in the country according to the World Wide Worx, it’s not rocket science that the approximately 25 million cellphone subscribers in the country would begin to access the internet from their cellphones.
What is rather startling, is how quickly it has happened and how actively consumers use their phones to access the internet. Statistics released by Admob, one of the world’s largest mobile advertisers, show that South Africa users served over 144 million page impressions on Admob’s network in the month of December alone.
The stats place South Africa third behind only India and the States on the list of countries with the most active users. Even more surprising is that, while we have 25 million cellphone subscribers, India has 160 million subscribers (approximately six times more than SA) and the United States has over 200 million subscribers (eight times more than SA).
Admob services clients in 160 countries and has over two billion impressions on their network a month, which means South Africans are some of the most active cellphone internet users in the world.
What’s also interesting about the stats that Admob released, is which phones are used to create the impressions. In South Africa, while Nokia phones lead the way with 32.2% of impressions, Samsung was hot on its heals with 30.5% and Motorola third with 18.5%.
Interestingly, Motorola V360s were the most active phones accessing the internet Ã¢Â€Â“ responsible for 11.3% of South African users’ impressions, while Samsung E250 phones were responsible for 8.8% of impressions. Both of these phones are being sold on low-end contracts (for a little as R39 a month by one of the networks) and for cash on pre-paid packages.
What we could surmise from this is that people who don’t have a lot of money are making significant use of the internet, perhaps because they don’t have a dial-up or broadband connection?
What’s also notable is that of all the phones accessing the internet from South Africa on the Admob network, 94.4% support polyphonic ringtones, 43.2% support streaming video, 75.5% can download video clips and 93.6% support WAP Push Messages.
These figures are significantly higher than many of the other countries, including the United Kingdom which served up fewer impressions than South Africa did. They also show that South African users are ready to begin using more advanced technology like downloading and viewing video clips on their cellphones.
Media houses have been some of the first to cotton on to the potential of people accessing information via their cellphones. Media 24 launched its mobile portal last year, while IOL has Mail & Guardian and Primedia’s Highveld Stereo has http://www.highveld.mobi/.
Facebook has also had a large part to play in encouraging people to access the internet from their phones with the 577,000 odd local Facebook subscribers able to log on in this way.
While mobile websites are unlikely to make significant dents into traditional advertising revenues anytime soon, like traditional websites, mobile websites provide greater reporting facilities (as users are easily identified by their cellphone number when they visit the site) and user profiling opportunities than print publications.
While user profiling is in its infancy, with marketing moving into a phase where companies try to meet the specific needs of consumers, the cellphone number will in future become the basis to build a complete profile for direct marketing purposes as well as to feed specific content on the mobile site through to the person based on their preferences.
It’s only a matter of time before advertisers wake up to the opportunity that the large local and massive international mobile internet audiences provide.