US tops worldwide charts for mobile web browsing and spending

Better payment experience encourages more people to buy mobile content

The USA has knocked the UK off the top slot for mobile web browsing with 29% of the worldwide traffic, according to data released today by Bango. And the good news for content providers is that the growth in traffic is being matched by the growth in users paying for content on the mobile web.

Bango Top 10 mobile web browsing chart, February 2009

“With 245 million subscribers, it was only a matter of time before the US became the number 1 country in the world for mobile web browsing,” said Anil Malhotra, SVP of Marketing at Bango. “When it comes to payments though, the US is accelerating faster than any other country and now accounts for 57% of payments worldwide.”

Bango has made operator billing much more efficient by enabling people to simply single-click to buy and download content straight to their mobile handsets. This optimized user experience has increased conversion rates to such an extent that mobile advertising and search marketing is now a profitable way of generating leads for Bango’s customers.

The publicity behind the Apple iPhone has encouraged more people to browse the mobile web in countries such as the US and UK. But this increase in mobile browsing has taken businesses by surprise as many don’t have mobile websites.

“Many people simply have no idea that they have visitors from mobile devices accessing their PC website – these mobile visitors are simply invisible to them,” continued Malhotra. “Part of the problem is lack of awareness and to help, we have created a short video at which explains how you can get a good grasp of how much mobile traffic you have.”

The February Bango statistics identified mobile web browsers from a total of 208 different countries and using 1,811 different handsets. View a sample of the mobile traffic going through the Bango system at

The statistics also show that while some countries such as India and Indonesia have a good appetite for browsing on their mobiles, it doesn’t always convert into purchases. In fact, only five countries in the Top 10 browsing chart are also in the Top 10 payments chart – USA, UK, Portugal, South Africa and Spain.

No matter how high the browsing rate, it is only converted into a high purchase rate where people have a good disposable income and can pay for content on their phone bills. In regions such as India, South Africa, Indonesia and Egypt the driver for mobile browsing is a lack of fixed-line broadband and PCs for accessing the internet which means that the mobile device is the only way people can get onto the internet.

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7 Responses to US tops worldwide charts for mobile web browsing and spending

  1. Lars says:

    Hi Sarah

    Noted that Japan does not appear in the list above..

    With the highest data ARPU globally I would suggest the title “US tops worldwide charts for mobile web browsing and spending” is not accurate?

    Kind Regards


    • Sarah Keefe says:

      Good point Lars. This data represents the activities of major brands and businesses as their consumers browsing to mobile websites (as measured by our Analytics service) and buy mobile content and services (as measured by our Payment service). We are not saying this reflects ARPU as measured by the operators but gives an accurate picture of the off-portal market.

      Since Japan is still a closed market from a browsing point of view (30% of traffic is i-mode, is that right?) we are not seeing many Japanese people browsing outside of Japan. Interestingly, China is just outside of the Top 10, in 11th position but here there are lots of controls over what you can access in China imposed by the network operators. Hope this helps.

      Sarah Keefe

  2. Lars says:

    Hello Sarah:

    Thanks for the clarification on how you arrived at those numbers. However, I would submit the operators data ARPU would provide a clear indication of usage here regardless of your ability to monitor using in-house analytic tools.

    Now sure what you mean by “Japan is still a closed market”.. full http://www. web access has been openly available on all handsets by all operators since the beginning in ’99. While the on/off deck numbers are not easy to come by, the last public comment by DoCoMo (more than a year ago) suggested less than 1/2 of their page view requests were for i-mode sites. The other two operators, who combined control 50% market share, obviously have their own official menus and would likely see essentially the same type of subscriber activity.

    Considering a few other relevant factors:
    – Japan has 10% of the population compared to China
    – Japanese people tend to read Japanese characters
    – There are over 10,000 official content sites for them here

    Chetan Sharma has a nice graph in this presentation that shows global operator data ARPU for 2008, see page 21:

    Note the 3 Japanese operators collected about 20% more revenue – than their 3 U.S counterparts – with less than 1/2 of the subscriber base. Also important to remember, since sms messaging here is basically free, that volume would represent actual ‘pure data’ web surfing!

    Hope that helps set the record straight.. 😎


  3. Pingback: Mobile News » The US Takes Top Spot For Mobile Browsing & Payments

  4. Alex says:

    It would be also useful to see sms/wap payments vs. credit card payments comparison for each of the top countries.

  5. Martin Keene says:

    Would agree with Alex and would love to see the breakdown on how users are paying…and also across carriers and handset types as I understand more iphone users are paying on credit card as Apple don’t make it easy to get hold of the users phone number for carrier billing?

    My company has set up an account with Bango for US market trial.

  6. Sarah Keefe says:

    Martin and Alex,

    At Bango, the majority of payments are on the operator bill, with 6% on credit/debit card and less than 1% on PayPal. This may surprise you but let me explain why on-bill is so high for our customers.

    Over half of all payments we process are from consumers in the US and UK. In the UK, on-bill payment is mandated by the operators – only when this fails do we offer credit card. As this is a fast, single click experience it makes perfect sense.

    In the US, on-bill payment is similarly offered first, with failover to credit card. In the US, however, any over 18 content can’t be put on the subscriber’s bill so credit card is the default.

    In other countries where we see payments, this proportion of operator bill/credit card is approximately the same – see this country list on MSearchGroove:

    As you say Martin, all Apple App Stores sales are by credit card. The Bango’s stats reflect businesses that monetize their mobile content and services across a wide demographic – we see little iPhone purchases as spending by iPhone users is restricted to the Apple App Store.

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