The mo bile Internet economy generates annual revenues of EUR 92 billion and a consumer benefit, or surplus, of about EUR 770 billion in the countries of the EU5 Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Spain. The mobile Internet has created 250,000 jobs in these five countries.
Revenues are growing quickly, according to a report released by The Boston Consulting Group, fueled by competition among the various mobile Internet ecosystems. The resulting innovation and choice lead to better devices and falling prices for consumers. By 2017, EU5 mobile Internet revenues will have more than doubled to about EUR 230 billion — an annual growth rate of 25 percent, comparable to the growth of those revenues in China and the U.S.
The single largest contributor to growth will be the apps, content, and services component of the ecosystem, driven by the rapid expansion of mobile shopping and advertising.
On a per capita basis in the EU5, the average consumer surplus — the perceived value that consumers themselves believe they receive over and above what they pay for devices, apps, services, and access — is about EUR 4,700 ($5,900) a year. Consumers in Germany receive the biggest average surplus — EUR 5,136 — followed by France (EUR 5,072), the UK (EUR 4,657), Italy (EUR 4,307), and Spain (EUR 4,025).
“Competition throughout the mobile Internet ecosystem is driving innovation, growth, jobs, and a continually improving experience for consumers and businesses,” said Dominic Field, a BCG partner and coauthor of the report. “Increasing mobile access everywhere is leading to new uses of the Internet — in fields from banking to education and from health care to the delivery of public services — further propelling growth. Policy makers can help keep the mobile Internet economy moving by pursuing proven policy goals that encourage continued improvement in these areas as well as innovation, value creation, and consumer welfare and choice.”
Competition occurs at every layer of the mobile ecosystem — among service providers, enablement platforms, and companies providing apps, content, and services. Competition is particularly intense — and evolution especially fast-paced — among device manufacturers and operating system companies. As recently as 2010, the BlackBerry and Symbian platforms accounted for almost half of smartphone sales; they now represent less than 5 percent. Today, Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android OS, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS are fighting for market share while keeping an eye on newer entrants, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, Nokia’s X platform, Xiaomi MIUI, Firefox OS, and Tizen, which are further augmenting user choice and competition. All of this leads to faster innovation, more capable devices, and lower prices.
A big part of the mobile Internet success story is the flourishing app economy. There have been more than 200 billion cumulative downloads from the various app stores since the first app was developed in 2008. More than 100 billion downloads took place in 2013 alone, of which around 20 billion were in the EU. Leading app-store operators paid developers more than $15 billion between June 2013 and July 2014. The report notes that some of the world’s largest and most successful developers of mobile gaming apps are in Europe.
“In Europe, growth of the mobile Internet economy is propelled by increasing affordability and accessibility, as well as by advances in technology and infrastructure,” said Matt Brittin, vice president for Northern and Central Europe Operations at Google, which commissioned the BCG report. He noted that average selling prices for smartphones in Europe are projected to fall by nearly 38 percent by 2017 — considerably faster than they will fall globally.
Large majorities of EU5 consumers would forgo most offline media (the one exception is TV) before losing mobile Internet access. More than half would give up alcohol and almost 50 percent are willing for forgo coffee, movies, and exercise to keep their mobile Internet access. One in five is willing to give up his or her car and 17 percent would abstain from sex. A significant minority of consumers (14 percent in the EU5) are not willing to give up their mobile Internet access at any price.