IDC Finds Future Growth of Wireless Consumer Subscribers in U.S. Depends on Carriers’ Ability to Attract the Youth Market

FRAMINGHAM, MA – AUGUST 13, 2003 – With overall consumer subscriber growth expected to dwindle from 7.6% in 2003 to 0.3% by 2007, many U.S. carriers are actively pursuing the youth and young adult markets as the next frontier for growth in wireless services. According to a new study by IDC, carriers will have to adopt unconventional business models and marketing approaches to capture this elusive market.

"The quest for the youth market is like chasing a storm – the rewards are gratifying and the pursuit is challenging, but the whole proposition can be risky business if not executed well," said Dana Thorat, senior research analyst, Wireless and Mobile Communications. "While the prospects for increased wireless adoption from both these segments is favorable, the youth market shows the most potential for growth over the next five years."

IDC estimates that only 28% of consumers ages 10 to 19 are currently wireless users with their own devices. However, this segment will increasingly think "mobile" in their communications methods, media channels, and brand choices, and they will be prime targets for new wireless services and applications. Additionally, the role of youth in wireless services will be much more than just discretionary spending and the sum of money in their pockets. This communications intensive market is very tech-savvy and has the uncanny ability to diffuse new services and technologies to the mass market through viral and peer-to-peer marketing.

Although the allure of the U.S. youth market has most recently inspired new wireless brands, services, and carrier marketing campaigns, efforts thus far to woo these fickle users are really still grassroots. IDC believes that attracting this market will require more avant-garde approaches, such as those being implemented by service providers Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. These companies are demonstrating that new business models, differentiated services, strong youth brands, clever marketing, and some rather risky approaches are required to appeal to youths' appetites for fun, impulsiveness, brand affiliations, communications, and community membership and interactivity.

IDC's recently released report, U.S. Youth/Young Adult Wireless Subscriber Forecast, 2002–2007: In Search of the Perfect Storm (IDC #29822), provides a forecast and analysis for wireless youth and young adult subscribers, including specific issues and underlying considerations for service providers in targeting these markets. Additionally, based on IDC's 2003 Youth/Young Adult Wireless User Survey of 1,465 U.S. wireless users ages 13 to 24,this study also identifies appropriate wireless services and content for these markets.

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