At the end of this year, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17% in Western Europe — the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. At that time, mobile phone penetration was still below the 40% threshold and mobile shops were opening at every high-street corner. Companies were only starting to launch their web presence and to anticipate the impact of the Web. Operator-branded mobile Internet solutions would only launch 3 years after and 3G in 2003/2004.

10 years after, the mobile Internet is reaching critical mass and a virtuous mobile Internet cycle is kicking off. Consumers who have a flat-rate data bundle spend more and more time on the Internet from their mobile phones, brands begin to launch their mobile Web presence to monetize these growing audiences and engage with their customers via more relevant mobile content and services, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to unlimited mobile Internet tariffs.

The current economic climate will lengthen handset renewal cycles, foster the development of low-cost offerings, and boost the uptake of SIM-only contracts. Operators are likely to postpone major investments in new networks such as 4G / Long-Term Evolution, despite early trials and commercialization in the Nordics. However, it will only slightly reduce the pace of growth for those elements that stimulate mobile Internet usage: 3.5G and Internet-centric mobile phones as well as all-you-can-eat data plans will be widely available in the next five years. That's the reason why Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39% by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same.

The iPhone is just the tip of the iceberg and many other compelling devices and services are on the roadmap in the next five years. Early examples of PC trends being reinvented by the mobile media are numerous: social computing, widgets, ad-funded business models, search engine optimization, behavioral targeting, content on demand or even augmented reality. New entrants are simply shaking up the value chain and the pace of mobile innovation is accelerating like never before.

It is about time to building a mobile strategy and to tap into today's opportunities but also to anticipate the significant changes that will happen in the coming years.

To do so, we truly recommend to look at the diversity of European countries. We've just published a brand new report: Western European Mobile Forecast, 2009 to 2014 to quantify mobile trends in many European countries. If you are a Forrester client, you can access the report here. To know how to obtain detailled mobile figures (adoption rate, handsets by type and by network, flat-rate data plans and other metrics) for 17 Western European countries, learn about ForecastView here.

I'll be hosting a teleconference on this topic sharing our latest Forecast and recent consumer survey data tomorrow Tuesday at 5pm CET. If interested, you can register here.

If you want to discuss your vision of the future of mobile in Europe, feel free to let a comment below or to contact me at thusson AT forrester DOT com.