In two recently published forecasts — Forrester Research Mobile Adoption Forecast, 2011 To 2016 (Western Europe) and Forrester Research Mobile Adoption And Sales Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US) — we looked at mobile Internet usage across the US and 17 countries in Western Europe.* Tracking the evolution of mobile Internet usage allows us to understand changes in consumer behavior and to better understand such things as the rise of mobile commerce. We found that in 2011, less than one-third of mobile phone owners in Western Europe connected to the mobile Internet at least monthly; this equates to 100 million individuals. In the US, monthly mobile Internet penetration reached 114 million people, approaching half of handset owners. Even the UK, which is one of the leading proponents of mobile Internet usage in Europe, lagged the US, with less than 40% of mobile phone users connecting to the mobile Internet at least monthly.
European economic woes have almost certainly had an impact, but factors like higher smartphone penetration, competitive data plans, higher post-pay subscriber penetration, and the faster rollout of 4G networks and handsets in the US than in Western Europe help explain this difference. In 2011, more than 17 million US mobile phone users already had 4G compatible handsets compared with only 1.6 million in Western Europe.