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Half of U.S. teens to own cell phones by 2004

Teenagers, long known for their love affair with the telephone, have become the cell phone market's fastest growth demographic in the United States, according to a report.

    Teenagers, long known for their love affair with the telephone, have become the cell phone market's fastest growth demographic in the United States, according to a report.

    The study, released by market research firm Cahners In-Stat Group, predicts the wireless market for young people ages 10 to 24 will grow from 11 million subscribers today to 43 million in 2004.

    Two out of every four teens will own a cell phone by 2004, and three out of every four will use a cell phone, typically one borrowed regularly from a parent, the report states.

    Although teenagers cannot typically afford the cost of cellular service, the study found that parents are often willing to foot the bill to keep track of their teenager.

    "Often a parent will have a phone, and then they'll let their children use it if they go out to a movie or something," said Becky Diercks, the director of Cahners' wireless service operation.

    Older teenagers more often own their personal cell phone. To accommodate these teens, many of whom lack an income and credit, cellular carriers have been creating new plans to cater to the teen market such as "family plans" and "pre-paid service" accounts.

    Diercks suspects this growing market will spur an increase in cellular advertising campaigns aimed at "generation Y."

    "It really says to the wireless carriers that they should be directing their marketing to this group, because it's going to be one of the biggest growth markets over the next five years," Diercks said.

    The Cahner's study further found that wage-earning young people, who have opted to work rather than attend college, will make up the largest segment of the youth market.

    "That is an interesting finding, because often carriers are focusing on the college market," Diercks said.

    Cahners gathered its data through more than 2,000 telephone and shopping mall surveys with young people and often their parents.

    Research showed that teens mostly use phones for social purposes and want more colorful and interesting cell phone options.