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Mobile

Carriers target the young and the wireless

The youth market in the United States--with some 25 million to 35 million potential, but "highly fickle," customers--is set to be a lucrative one for the wireless industry, researchers say.

    For those in the wireless industry, it may well pay to be young at heart.

    The youth market in the United States--with some 25 million to 35 million potential customers--is set to be a lucrative one for the wireless industry, researcher In-Stat/MDR said Tuesday. Wireless carriers stand to benefit most from the opportunities, but gains should also accrue to handset manufacturers and to those developing applications like games for wireless devices.

    Providers of mobile phone services have already begun laying the groundwork. Nextel Communications, for instance, has been reaching out to that group for a number of months, and In-Stat/MDR said that the carrier's Boost Mobile program may give it an edge over rivals in winning over the "highly fickle" demographic. Others, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless, have prepaid services aimed at adolescents and young adults, with varying levels of success.

    Teens and other young consumers are a sought-after clientele for a range of tech companies, in addition to wireless carriers. Software maker Microsoft has been developing new versions of targeted offers. Internet service provider America Online and music download service Napster are trying to woo teens.

    "The wireless industry will need to focus on developing innovative services that appeal to youth, but that also fit parents' buying habits," said a statement from Ken Hyers, senior analyst at In-Stat/MDR. "This will call for a multiphased product and service offering from carriers. A combination of plans, including a mix of postpaid and prepaid, family plans, and youth-oriented subbrands should all be considered by carriers interested in this customer segment."

    In-Stat/MDR also said that youths, and especially young adults, were highly likely to be regular users of wireless data services and that by a substantial margin, youths were more likely to be customers of Verizon Wireless.