Photo - (from left) Steven Tai, head of Strategy & Marketing, Ericsson Malaysia & Sri Lanka; and Afrizal Abdul Rahim, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab South East Asia & Oceania.
According to an online survey by mobile solutions provider Ericsson's research arm ConsumerLab, Malaysians use of smartphones to access the Internet could increase to 73 percent from its current 43 percent by the end of 2012.
This indicates a healthy growth potential for smartphones and tablets in Malaysia, said Afrizal Abdul Rahim, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab South East Asia & Oceania, who said the recent online survey of 500 Malaysian consumers aged between 16-60 was part of a study in 58 countries covering a total of 47,577 people carried out by research firm TNS for Ericsson.
"In addition to the increase of smartphone penetration among Internet users in Malaysia, tablet penetration is expected to increase threefold from 14 percent to 48 percent by the end of the year based on the consumers expressed interest," said Afrizal, adding that this means Malaysia has the biggest growth potential in the region, based on expressed interest from the surveyed consumers.
He said that smartphone usage in developing Asia is projected to increase by more than four-fold between 2011 to 2016 due to the emergence of low-cost, mass-market smartphones, which will encourage higher levels of adoption.
"Telecommunications operators need to ensure that their networks are smartphone-ready, capable of delivering superior coverage, speed and reliability and able to handle the demands of continued mobile data growth," said Afrizal. "The analysis shows that the popularity of smartphones is not only limited to mature markets - an increasing number of people in developing nations are being exposed to their first Internet experience on smartphones. This means that rising usage is opening up a new platform for operators to access the largely untapped data market."
He said that on developing Asia, where current overall smartphone penetration is estimated at a mere five percent, smartphone usage numbers are projected to increase by more than four-fold in the next five years, or between 2011 and 2016.
"In Malaysia, non-smartphones are still popular among consumers. But smartphones are expected to become more dominant in the Malaysian market in the near future," said Afrizal. "The key motivating factors for future smartphone users are Internet surfing (39 percent), upgrade from current devices (34 percent), and usage of apps (29 percent). Smartphone development in Malaysia is expected to reach a mature stage in the near future, as it offers consumers a single device which meets all their communication needs."
Smartphones aside, tablets are already making waves on their own, as newer and more affordable variations of tablets become increasingly available, he added
"Currently, Singapore has the highest penetration of tablets in the region followed by Australia," said Afrizal. "Drivers for future tablet purchases vary from country to country; In Malaysia, Internet surfing is the main driver followed by portability and convenient size of the tablet."
"Analysis of the research data indicates that voice calls and SMS continue to be important among current smartphone users. However, Internet browsing, social networking, apps usage and instant messaging are also key drivers for current smartphone use and are expected to continue to grow," he sad. "Looking at the usage that is driving growth in mobile data, the most popular mobile applications used by Malaysians are those related to communication, gaming and TV/ video."
"We also foresee that mobile consumers will likely show great interest in apps related to banking and entertainment." he said.
"These findings suggest that future growth will primarily be driven by mobile data," said Ericsson Malaysia & Sri Lanka head of strategy & marketing, Steven Tai. "How can operators in the region best capitalise on this fast-growing segment? Rising smartphone usage means operators need smart offers - and a smart network."
"To increase cost efficiency and revenue potential, smartphone time on 3G networks must be maximised," Tai said. "Smart networks, which are user, service and content-aware, call for a holistic approach to network architecture with policy control that enables differentiated services and optimisation of network resources."
"Globally, total smartphone subscriptions are expected to reach about three billion in 2017 with at least 50 percent of the traffic delivered through Ericsson networks," he said. "Malaysia needs to look to superior networks to cope with the increase in traffic. We at Ericsson are poised to embrace the substantial increase of mobile data traffic that is due to the positive uptake of smartphones and tablets in Malaysia, within the region and around the world."