Japan and Korea led the worldwide mobile data subscribers figure past the 100 million mark in September 2003, according to Kester Mann, Senior Research Analyst at EMC. The figure represents 7.7% of the 1.29 billion global mobile subscribers and an increase of 14% since the end of June 2003. "By the end of January 2004 we expect the total number of mobile data subscribers is likely to have exceeded 115 million, fuelled primarily by the continued growth in the Asia region," commented Mann. Mobile data subscribers are referred to as active users of GPRS, MMS, CDMA2000 1X or i-mode.
Japan and Korea remain the clear mobile data pace setters, with NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service alone accounting for 38.5 million subscribers. Whereas in Europe ringtones, logos, gaming and music currently drive usage across operators' data networks, email and messaging are two of the most popular mobile data services for Japanese subscribers. Additionally, applications such as adult content and gambling, still in their infancy in Europe, continue to grow in popularity in both Japan and Korea.
Floundering European operators may at last, however, be beginning to make some headway on their Asian counterparts. Boosted by operator-branded services such as O2 Active, Vodafone Live! and T-Mobile t-zones, there were approximately 16 million active users of services run over GPRS in Europe at the end of September 2003, a quarterly increase of just under 30%.