This is a copy of the thought leadership piece I wrote for Mobile Marketing Magazine’s December edition you can access the full magazine here

When looking forward to the future it’s always smart to look back and see what happened in the past in similar circumstances. And in order to determine the growth and spread of mobile we don’t have to go far back into the past to see what’s likely to happen .

To see what is going to happen in the UK in mobile growth we only need to go back to the start of 1999, where the size of the audience using the internet was 9.8m and the total ad spend across the previous 12 months was £30M. There are incredible similarities in 2008 with the mobile internet market, where there was 9.4m users and an ad spend of £28.6m (Comscore/IAB/PWC/WARC).

From 2000 onwards there has been double digit growth every year in online for both usage numbers and ad spend.

The question is, will this be replicated in mobile? On the surface and looking at recent trends, mobile internet usage and the associated services will grow similarly to the way fixed-line grew. However I believe that this is not the case and expect that mobile will grow faster, for a number of very good reasons.

Whereas, in the late 90’s, the infrastructure for rapid growth of fixedline usage ( Broadband penetration) was not in place, it is very different now for mobile. The infrastructure is in place for pretty much everyone in the UK who wants to access mobile internet via 3G networks – you only have to look to 2003 to see the rapid growth that year in online usage and ad spend when broadband connectivity started to take off. In addition, the technology to use mobile browsing to its maximum potential, Smart Phone technology, is availability at a sensible price for most people.

Accessibility to broadband and affordable quality computers to use it on was still a problem in the late ‘90s and early part of the 2000’s when the growth of the internet was good but not rapid. The other advantage mobile has over the fixed line internet is that it can piggy back on the fixed line broadband reach through the availability of private and public Wifi, not only opening up further connectivity opportunities but also giving users a faster and more richer phone using experience.

It’s a fact that on a global basis, mobile internet usage is shooting up faster than the fixed line internet did.

However, the big advantage that mobile has over the early days of the internet is that most people now have a need and reason to be using the mobile internet. This is because the vast majority of the UK population are now online and using it daily and it has become an invaluable part of their lives. We therefore have a transferable desire and requirement for internet use on the go.

But you need people to use it, and what is driving people, or going to drive people to use the mobile Web based services and generate the growth ? There are a number of reasons but there are couple of key drivers; the “unique” services that are driving usage such as mobile email, ip phone calling and IM, location based search and GPS driven services. As well as the established online services that have adapted exceptionally well for mobile such as Facebook, Ebay, immediate news and sport updates and for the young or young at heart ,the gaming experience. Mobile provides an instant 24hour available personalised internet and application service.

For most people using the internet in the early days the big hurdle they had to mentally get over was that of security and trust in the services they were using, especially with purchasing or personal data. This is currently the case in mobile too. Only experience and time spent in the mobile space will convince the users, again reflecting the first steps into the fixed line internet for many. Applications, to some extent, deliver a sense of security and confidence due to the fact they have been downloaded via an app store and consequently the user assumes, quite rightly, that Apple have vetted the brand and the application. Apple, possibly inadvertently, has overcome this hurdle through giving the user a bubble of safety for them to use mobile internet based services.

Mobile is going to have a massive impact on business via ecommerce opportunities, CRM 1:1 connectivity and more personalised marketing activity. In order to make the most of it the time is right to venture into the space now and gain invaluable knowledge before it really takes off.

Just look to the fixed line internet.