The mobile is potentially overtaking PCs as the device of choice for access to social network site (SNS) in Asia and Pacific,  IDC said on Monday in a survey-based report. It also noted that the telecom carriers need to set the stage for mass adoption by lowering data tariffs and offering user-friendly mobile applications.

In countries such as China, India, Korea, and Thailand, over 50 percent of the users interviewed by IDC have made accessing SNSs via the mobile phone a weekly habit. This is particularly widespread in the China and Thailand markets, where 62 percent and 65 percent of respective users regularly obtain news alerts and notifications, receive and reply to messages, upload photos, or update personal status and profiles on popular SNSs via mobile phone browsers.

By contrast, Australia and Singapore see the lowest percentage of users who access mobile versions of SNSs, where only 19 percent and 25 percent of respective users login weekly via their mobile browsers.

The prevalence of owning a cellular phone over a PC in China, India and Thailand has directly boosted the popularity of mobile SNS access, said Debbie Swee, Market Analyst, IDC Asia/Pacific Emerging Technologies Research.

In Korea, however, there is strong usage for a different reason - the market is technologically advanced and has already seen mass adoption of mobile Internet as compared with all other countries surveyed in the study,  Swee added.

Despite also being technologically advanced markets, the overwhelming importance of the PC over mobile in Australia and Singapore has created strong inertia against adopting regular mobile access of SNSs, according to Swee.

The IDC survey further indicated that mobile operators' pricing strategies are possibly keeping many non-users away from mobile social networking.

Users who have never logged in to SNSs through mobile phones  said the main obstacle is the hefty data tariffs, including service fees for mobile Internet, SMS or MMS access.

SNS users have, however, asserted that more are likely to try out mobile versions of SNS if telcos offer more affordable data rates. The availability of user-friendly mobile applications is also perceived as a notable area of improvement, albeit to a lesser extent.

The survey findings thus show that mobile phones and mobile Internet hold the promise of changing the SNS landscape in the Asia/Pacific region. Particularly in markets where PC penetration is relatively low, mobile phones have the potential to eventually overtake the PC as a preferred way of accessing SNSs, said Swee.

IDC said a low flat-rate Internet access fee would complement and increase mobile SNS adoption for mobile operators in China, India and Thailand. But operators  in Australia, Korea and Singapore, where data tariffs are already relatively low, need to correct users' misconceptions of pricey data plans through advertising and other marketing efforts. IDC said.