The Australian leg of m.Net's Worldwide Mobile Data Services survey, conducted in November 2008, canvassed around 2,000 respondents and found that 97 per cent of mobile users use their phone for an application other than voice, most of these being a "communication service".
But mobile data communication services look to be moving well beyond the simple SMS.
The survey found that half of mobile data users had used Instant Messaging on their phone, up a whopping 120 per cent on m.Net's November 2007 survey.
"Typically the mobile phone was predominantly a voice tool," said m.Net research director Marisa Mackay.
"Then came SMS and personalisation with ringtones and wallpapers. Today, 97 per cent use SMS.
"In the last 12-18 months, people are using the mobile beyond those comfort services. A greater gamut of services being used on the mobile are in line with how we use the Internet."
Mackay said the growth of mobile IM ties in with an increase in using mobile phones for social networking applications, which grew from 10 to 15 per cent.
Some 16 per cent of mobile data users, meanwhile, are now prepared to use their mobile for accessing financial services - up from 10 per cent in 2007.
Some 41 per cent of survey respondents were "interested in mobile banking," a further 44 per cent were "interested in the ability to pay for things with their mobile phone."
Security remains an issue, Mackay said, but this concern tends to be mitigated when a strong brand (bank) is offering the service.
"From my qualitative research, from actually speaking to the respondents, security has been an issue," she said.
"There is a perception that the mobile phone is not as secure. But what consumers argue is - if there is a strong brand behind the provision - even if something goes wrong, there's a port of call to take their complaint."
Mackay said the overall growth in mobile data services was due to a combination of factors, not one "killer app."
She feels it is a combination of cheap data plans, attractive applications and the right advertising strategies from carriers.
"The carriers are offering more appealing data plans, and their advertising is shifting away from talking about technology to what technology delivers. The advertising and promotion is around services are available on the phone," she said.
She feels mobile data plans will continue to be competitive - even more competitive than fixed line broadband plans - regardless of whether carriers are profiting from them or not.
"There will be modifications and changes, but carriers will feel the pressure from the consumers. As more consumers realise what can be done with mobile data, they will want to see attractive data plans."
"There are some challenges around revenue for carriers. Carriers might have to allow for the fact that they won't generate the same proportion of revenue from mobile data as fixed internet while we're at this tipping point. It may take longer to realise the same amount of revenue as from other channels."
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