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dtac and Research Study: Young Smartphone Users in Thailand are Most Digital Users of Internet Communications

Seven-country survey finds Thais are the most advanced adopters of internet-based voice and video services across Asia and Europe
     June 30, 2016 – Today dtac announced a study jointly conducted with Telenor Group’s research arm, Telenor Research. The seven-country study found that internet usage among young mobile internet users in Asia varies greatly across the region as well as in comparison to their European peers. However, young Thai smartphone users are some of the most advanced and digital users of internet communication, with the highest use rate of internet video and voice calls.

dtac and the Telenor Research study was carried out in Q4 2015 on a sample of 5,600 respondents in Thailand, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan, Serbia, Hungary, Sweden and Norway, aged 16-35 years, who use internet on their mobile phones – a demographic Telenor identifies as ‘Digital Frontrunners.’ The way these users apply internet on their mobiles, gives indications as to how the wider demographic in the respective countries will adopt mobile internet in the years ahead. The study found that users employ their mobile devices in a wide range of internet activities on a daily basis, from browsing, messaging and sharing, to shopping and watching videos.

Lars Norling, CEO of Total Access Communication PLC. or dtac, said “we have set a direction of dtac to become the leading internet operator in the market by delivering the best internet network to the data-loving Thai Digital Frontrunner and consumers. This ambition is support by a significant network expansion drive, service innovations and business transformation programs. dtac has pledged to deliver the best customer internet experience to Thailand. I will work closely with management team in strengthening the company’s position as a digital frontrunner.”

“It is crucial to have surveys like this one looking at ‘Digital Frontrunners’ who can help forecast future industry trends,” said Bjørn Taale, Head of Research, Telenor Research. “Not only is this information beneficial in planning our digital services, it is also interesting to see the resemblance between nations as diverse as Thailand, Hungary, Pakistan or Norway. Just when we think that two nations may be following the same evolution, local nuances show that we are as unique as we are similar.”

Thailand and Asia Ahead of Europe in Internet-based Communications 
The study found that many of the seven surveyed countries are moving towards more internet-based services. Thailand saw noticeable growth of internet voice and video calls from April 2014 to December 2015, with daily usage rates increasing from 48% to 65% and 37% to 52% respectively. In fact, only 3% said they ‘never’ use this means of communication. The frequency of communicating via the internet is also among the highest in Thailand, with 86% saying they do so daily, behind only Serbia at 89%.

Strikingly, the Nordic respondents showed very little use of internet voice services with 37% and 36% of Norwegians and Swedes stating they have ‘never’ utilized this type of call. This is reflected again with video calls which while most popular among Thai frontrunners with 52% stating they use it daily, only 5% of Norwegians use it with the same frequency.

With the ever-increasing inflow of apps on smartphones, one might assume today’s young users easily forget the main functionality of mobile phones when they originated – voice calls. However, the survey shows that the traditional voice call is still a part of the communication mix. In Thailand, 58% of the frontrunners answered that they would make a traditional phone call several times a day.

Thais also responded that they still believe traditional mobile voice calls are the most important communication service on the mobile phone. This is in-line with respondents in all others countries except Malaysia, which said messaging apps are the most crucial type of communication service available.

Internet Messaging Takes Hold
Both Thai (68%) and Malaysian (71%) respondents said they use messaging apps several times a day, ahead of Sweden (44%), Norway (53%), Serbia (76%) and Hungary (60%).

At the lower end of the spectrum were the respondents in Pakistan, with only 29%. Correspondingly, they still have one of the heaviest uses of the traditional SMS, with 66% of Pakistani frontrunners using this SMS several times daily.

Despite this, SMS use is not a distinguishing factor between emerging and established markets. The frontrunners in Norway (56%) and Sweden (48%) use SMS numerous times per day, despite being established markets.

Meanwhile, the Thai frontrunners are the least frequent users of SMS, with 49% saying they use it ‘monthly or less / never’. However, this is expected as SMS has never had a strong position in Thailand.

For one-to-one communications on mobiles via the internet, the clear winner in Thailand is LINE, followed by Facebook messenger. However, other countries vary, with Malaysians opting for WhatsApp, Serbians opting for Viber and Swedes preferring email. 

New Uses of Mobile Internet
Thailand is among the markets in Asia leading the way for the adoption of newer uses of mobile internet. This includes the highest percentage of users in both Thailand and Malaysia saying they usually do the following on at least a weekly basis, if not more frequently: use map services, share locations, shop and play games.

A striking 22% of Thais said they shop online on a daily basis and they watch far more online videos/TV than frontrunners in any other of the surveyed countries, with 91% of respondents saying they do so at least weekly.

Thais, at 49%, also ranked only second to the Swedes at 57%, in the use of weekly money transfer and financial services.
     “Given our presence across diverse regions in Asia and Europe, we need to listen to our customers and evolve alongside them. If we find that online shopping is a passion for young Thais or that millennial Malaysian’s cherish their messaging applications, then it’s our job as the leading regional digital service provider to track that and meet their needs,” concluded Taale.