Mobile internet users up 40pc in Thailand, iPhone ‘dominant’

Mobile internet usage in Thailand skyrocketed by an estimated 40 percent over the last year according to online stat company as quoted in the Bangkok Post.

Company owner Piya Tanthawichian claims that iPhone is the dominant device for mobile internet users while the company estimates there are four million active mobile internet users in Thailand every day.

From the article:

Users of iPhone make one million hits a day on member websites, followed by Nokia (250,000), iPad Touch via WiFi and BlackBerry (100,000).

The figures are expected to continue growing this year, driven mainly by declining smartphone handset prices. The number of online surfers increased by 40% in the past three years…by comparison, the number of web pages for the company’s members grew only 16% last year and 6% in 2009.

Interesting though the statistics are, they are only estimates based on 10,000 Thai websites tracked by truehits so the numbers are by no means definitive.

However, estimates suggest that the figure may be realistic with actual mobile web traffic growth even more explosive in the last year with DTAC confirming its traffic had seen:

108% increase in mobile data traffic last year…[with]…The number of internet users [rising] by 30%.

Given the RIM superior owner numbers in the country’s smartphone market, it seems strange that the iPhone generates tens times more mobile internet traffic than BlackBerry devices.

For example, Thai Trend’s Twitter analytics service estimates that there are more than double the number of Twitter users on BlackBerry devices than iPhones – although of course the number of users of each device’s official app doesn’t represent 100 percent of those using the device to tweet, but it does provide an indicator.

Interestingly, adding popular BlackBerry app UberSocial’s stats to the official BlackBerry app’s and comparing this to the sum of the iPhone app and popular iPhone app Echofon, also suggests there are double the number of BlackBerry-based tweeters.

While it is likely true to say that, proportionally speaking, a greater ratio of iPhone owners use the mobile internet compared to BlackBerry users – who often make use of flexible tariffs allowing unlimited BBM and calls but no internet – I am surprised to see that iPhone is reported as being so dominant.

One thing is for sure, mobile access to social networks has increased significantly although there is still plenty of room for the Thai market to develop:

20% of the access from Thailand to social network sites was made from mobile phones last year, compared with 50% globally

As for the increase in mobile internet traffic itself, the estimate of 40 percent is certainly feasible given the explosion of smartphone ownership and social media membership and activity over the last year or so.

The fact that traffic has increased, in turn, by an even greater rate shows that mobile internet users are becoming more addicted to browsing, service and social networks.

One final point raised by the article, and indicative of the growth of online, is the predicted levels of advertising spend online:

Uraiporn Cholsirirungskul, chief executive of Thomas Idea, an interactive agency…noted companies are expected to allocate 5-10% of their advertising budgets to the online channel this year, compared with 2% last year, thanks to the growing number of internet users and lower handset costs.

I’ve blogged on the percentage of advertising share for online in Thailand (here) and while Ms Cholsirirungskul’s (wide berthed) prediction of growth is entirely possible, it is important to remember that other, more traditional media channels hold greater audience reach than online, as Siwat Chawareewong, MD  of mInteraction, is quoted in the article.

“The online advertising channel commands only 1.5% to 2% of the total market worth 100 billion baht in Thailand, or 1.5 billion to 2 billion baht only,” he said, adding that TV commercials, cable TV in the provinces and print still dominated the market.

In the long-term, with mobile likely to continue to grow, smartphones as the source of mobile internet will be key drivers of traffic which will in turn see a greater proportion of advertising revenue invested in online.