More people are using their cell phones to acces the Internet, as mobile usage in South Africa continues to rise. 


Riaan Groenewald, operations director at Multimedia Solutions, says that while SMS and MMS figures have been increasing year on year, low data tariffs, easy access to the mobile Web and a growing amount of online content customised for mobile viewing are responsible for the increase in the number of consumers accessing the mobile Web and related services.
According to Admob, the world’s largest mobile advertiser, South African is ranked third in its advertising stats report having created more than 144-million impressions in December 2007.
“While Admob has not released the amount of unique users, the stats are very impressive considering only India and the US scored higher on the report and they have six and eight times the number of subscribers respectively,” he says.
On the instant messaging front, Mxit is showing equally impressive stats with almost 6-million registered users, 9-million logins per day, a staggering 200-million messages passing through their servers daily and a growth rate of between 10 000 and 11 000 new subscriptions per day.
These kinds of figures have captured the attention of the cellular networks who are positioning themselves to get into the market in 2008, says Groenewald.
“MTN has already launched its Instant Messaging (IM) service, NokNok while Vodacom announced it would be launching to TheGrid and Meep early in the New Year."
The  figures all point to 2008 being a key year for the mobile industry, says Groenewald. The question is whether South African corporates and retailers are prepared for it.
"Consumers are becoming increasingly active in the sharing of information. Last year, the online space was dominated by blogging and Social Media, with sites like Facebook coming to the fore. While online growth will continue to happen in South Africa, companies need to be focusing on their mobile strategy,” says Groenewald.
The reason for this is that while regular online users are restricted to a few million actual users, the stats are showing that the mobile user base is substantially bigger, sitting at around 25-million users.
According to the Admob stats, the most popular phone in South Africa being used on the mobile web is the Motorola V360. This is an entry level phone being sold on pre-paid and cheap contract specials. This kind of phone makes access to the Internet possible for consumers who traditionally have been without Internet access.
Companies therefore need to realise that a large proportion of the economically active population are starting to use their phones to access information and that they can therefore reach this target market through the mobile Web.
“The mass media has been traditionally been used to communicate messages into the market. The difference now is that the mass media no longer reaches the most amount of people. The cellphone is now the biggest single channel to consumers, with cellphone subscribers having overtaken TV and radio audiences.
“And a large percentage of the cellphone base is now starting to actively look for information online. While most are browsing mobile content, sports news, entertainment news, weather etc from their phones, they could just as easily be browsing retailers’ mobi sites if they were available,” Groenewald says.