Significant technological advances in recent years in the areas of telecommunications, mobile devices and wireless communications resulted in an infiltration of all aspects of our lives by a variety of new Internet and mobile services. Mobile communications and the Internet have been the two major drivers of consumer demand for new services in the last decade of the twentieth century [ITU].
4 billion people, 60% of the world's population use mobile phones today [GSM]. The average mobile phone penetration in Europe reached 85% in 2005 (EU-25) [GSMEurope], with EU-15 penetrations exceeding 100%, and only 8 countries remaining below 60%. There are over 540 million GSM subscribers in Europe, plus another 18 million already using 3G networks [GSMEurope]. Following Europe China has already reached 370 million GSM users, followed by Russia with 145 million, India with 83 million and the USA with 78 million users.
Internet penetration in Europe (EU-25) on the other hand has reached 50.3% with 233 million Europeans, out of a total of 462 million, using the Internet [InternetWorldStats]. The situation is developing in a similar fashion in other parts of the world with the USA following with 152 million, China with 74 million, and Japan with 52 million [comScore a]. Total estimates of the world Internet user base range from conservative estimates of 694 million [comScore a] to optimistic estimates of 1 billion [InternetWorldStats].
Market studies show that the US online retail market will have a 19 percent growth rate, from $170bn in 2006 (comScore b] to $230bn in 2008. By that time online retail sales will account for 10 percent of total US retail sales [Forrester]. The European online retail market is expected to grow at a similar pace growing from €26.2bn in 2004 to €40bn in 2006 and €134bn in 2010 (EU 25) with the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain accounting for €78bn [Mintel].