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Mobile Phone Handset Online Retail Market

Respondents to Informa Telecoms & Media's "Mobile Distribution and Retail Industry Survey 2007" believe that online unit sales of mobile phone handsets will surge to 21 percent of total devices sales by 2012.

The survey reveals the industry's burgeoning belief in online retail at the expense of operator and independent stores.

Angela Stainthorpe, Research Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, says "Online retail for wireless is certainly only a nascent market but the tentative steps taken in 2007 will quickly become more confident. As broadband penetration increases and online shopping entrenches its place in the retail landscape, customer expectation and the cost benefits of online distribution will be difficult for the mobile industry to ignore."

Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts the online handset retail market in 2012 to be worth over double its 2007 level. Europe will lead the online market, accounting for 47 percent of global online handset sales revenues in 2012.

North America will hold onto its second place in the face of a rapidly expanding Asia Pacific market, doubling its online retail revenues over the forecast period. Asia Pacific will see a four-fold increase in online device revenues between 2007 and 2012, with the market worth $4.5 billion by the end of the period.

The report concludes that total handset retail revenues through all channels will reach $180.9 billion by 2012, up 23 percent on 2007.

The increasing importance of handset replacement sales, the widening proportion of prepaid versus postpaid subscriptions and the drive by vendors to take a more active role in the marketing and sale of their products are fundamentally changing the distribution environment. Operators will lose some market share in this shift, ending 2012 three points down with 25 percent of total handset retail revenues.

At a time when operators in mature markets are trying to reduce opex through lowering subscriber acquisition costs and churn, meeting and exceeding customer expectations at the retail level is vital to retaining their existing customers. But operators will find it difficult to meet the rapidly diversifying expectations of increasingly varied customer segments, thus making way for third parties to claim some market share.

In emerging markets, specialist and mass-market retail will each grow their significant minority status as economic progress and investment in distribution infrastructure encourages organized retail to take hold. Overall, mass-market and specialist stores will together account for a third of total devices retail revenue by 2012.

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