Youth market to drive 3G

Research finds that only a quarter of mobile and Internet users are particularly interested in 3G

Companies looking to succeed with 3G services should target their applications at the youth and twenty-something market, according to the latest research, which also found that mobile users are most interested in using a third-generation handset to access their email.

Taylor Nelson Sofres, a market research firm, conducted the research in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the US. In all three territories it found that interest in 3G was greatest in the under-25 age range.

In the US, 45 percent of existing mobile phone or Internet users aged 24 or younger expressed "high interest" in 3G, compared to 37 percent in Western Europe and 30 percent in Eastern Europe.

Older people showed less excitement about high-speed mobile phones. Only 10 percent of over-50s surveyed in America, and 9 percent in Western Europe, showed high interest in 3G -- although in Eastern Europe this figure was somewhat higher, at 24 percent.

Overall, Taylor Nelson Sofres found that only a small proportion of those they interviewed were excited about 3G. In the US, 25 percent of people expressed high interest in 3G, compared to 26 percent in Eastern Europe and 22 percent in Western Europe.

Given the large sums of money already spent on licences and infrastructure, mobile operators will be hoping that these people are quick to buy a 3G device when they hit the shops. Otherwise, predictions that 3G could be an almighty flop could be confirmed.

People who said they were interested in high-speed mobile Internet were then asked which services they thought would be most important to them. Taylor Nelson Sofres's found that email was the most popular 3G application, followed by map and direction services and news updates.

M-commerce and banking services also attracted significant interest. However, not many people said they would be interested in interactive games -- which is often seen as a key revenue generator for mobile operators in the future, and even fewer said they would be interested in playing games for money.

These findings show that mobile operators must find a way of providing the right mix of products to succeed in what is likely to be a segmented market, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres -- which believes that successful branding could be crucial.

"Any company that wants to maximise the impact of 3G must rigorously follow a market focussed, consumer-centric approach," said Chandra Chaterji, senior vice president of Taylor Nelson Sofres Global Information Technology Practice, in a statement. "The key question should be 'How can we leverage our brand to market a bundle of products or services employing mobile networks?" Chaterji added.

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