LONDON: Mobile devices are expected to account for three-quarters (75%) of global internet use in 2017, with Spain, Hong Kong and China in the vanguard, according to a new global study.

Media agency Zenith examined 60 key markets for its Mobile Advertising Forecasts report and uncovered just how quickly mobile has grown as a proportion of internet usage over the past four years.

According to Zenith, mobile accounted for 40% of internet use in 2012, rising to 68% in 2016, and it is forecast to reach 79% in 2018.

Spain is the country where mobile accounts for the highest proportion of total internet usage and Zenith estimates the proportion taken by mobile will reach 85% this year.

Hong Kong comes second, with 79% of internet use taking place on mobile, followed by China (76%), the US (74%), and Italy and India (both 73%).

Not surprisingly, the growth of mobile is being driven by rising smartphone penetration, but the Zenith study revealed how rapidly the world has embraced these devices.

Just 23% of consumers in the 60 markets covered in the report had a smartphone in 2012, but smartphone penetration has now reached 56% – an increase of 2.4 times over four years – and Zenith expects it to rise further to 63% by 2018.

Tablets, which are seen as more of a luxury item, have much lower rates of worldwide adoption, and Zenith reported that 15% of people in the 60 markets under review now own one. Tablet penetration is expected to rise modestly to 17% in 2018.

Commenting on the report, Jonathan Barnard, Head of Forecasting at Zenith, said: "Mobile devices are already the primary means of accessing the internet across the world.

"Countries in Western Europe, Asia and North America are leading the transition, but mobile technology is spreading rapidly everywhere. Next year mobile devices will become the main vehicle for internet advertising as well."

And regarding advertising, Zenith advised all brands to become mobile-first in their digital communications, but also to think about consumer mobility and not just the mobile devices consumers use.

"During the day consumers shift their attention from tablet to desktop to smartphone, sometimes while watching TV, so advertisers need to build brand experiences that are coherent across screens and devices,” the report concluded.

Data sourced from Zenith; additional content by Warc staff