European mobile instant messaging (IM) will triple in the next six years, with young consumers fuelling the growth, says analyst Forrester.
Forrester said mobile IM adoption in Europe will grow from 8% (26.7 million subscribers) in 2007 to 24% (80 million subscribers) by 2013.
Sweden and the UK will lead in mobile IM adoption, with 35% and 31% of respective subscribers using mobile IM by 2013.
Forrester's mobile IM forecast is based on a survey of 22,000 consumers across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
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Three years after the first mobile IM service was launched, Forrester believes operators still lack a true commitment to backing the technology, because of fears that mobile IM will cannibalise their revenue from their highly profitable short messaging services (SMS).
But mobile IM's growth is inevitable, and operators' fears of revenue erosion are greatly overstated, according to Forrester analyst Niek van Veen.
"Young consumers' familiarity with PC-based instant messaging and the growing number of IM-capable phones entering the market will drive adoption," van Veen said.
"Mobile IM and SMS are complementary services. Forward-thinking operators will embrace mobile IM as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. They will integrate IM with their existing services to build their brand around an enhanced customer experience, based on the allure of social computing," van Veen said.