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Mobile internet

Last week in Holland I used a 3G connection on my mobile for the very first time. It is a huge improvement over the slow GPRS connections that I have in China. I hardly ever surf the internet on my phone, except when I find a wifi spot, because of the slow connections. For email GPRS is sufficient as long as you do not download any files. But I am quite sure that this behaviour will change quicky once 3G becomes available in Shanghai (latest rumours say May/June this year, but nobody really knows).

According to MobileMonday, a survey released in Beijing last week indicated that 77% of Chinese mobile users plan to buy 3G handsets when they become avialable. An additional 17% says they are still unsure. Note that 3G is still not available in China, so people are now already interested to buy a phone with this technology without even trying it (they must be fed up with GRPS). I lost track of exactly how many mobile phone users there are in China, but I think the latest figure was somewhere around 400 million phones. That will be a huge demand for 3G phones, over 300 million new handsets!

And these users will be looking for 3G content. Good news for Tudou I think, and likely also an interesting market for online games. Wouldn’t it be nice to play high-quality games against friends who are also online on your mobile phone while commuting to work? I am sure 3G will bring a whole new group of start-ups to the Chinese market. I personally believe in mobile internet and mobile applications, as long as the handsets have a big enough screen (like my E61) and the connections are fast enough. In China people will likely adjust fast to 3G, Europe and especially the US will lag behind.

But don’t expect the whole of China to be on the mobile internet next year, the main hurdle will be the price. Both the price of the handsets (75% of Chinese users want to spend less than EUR 250 on this) and the price of the subscription or bandwidth usage (China mobile likely wants to use its quasi-monopoly position to earn good cash). But those will come down eventually, and I would not be surprised if in a few years the mobile internet in China will be bigger than surfing on computers. To prepare for this Spill Group Asia already bought lots of .mobi domain names!

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