Nielsen, the US-based audience measurement firm, is to begin tracking mobile phone users’ media consumption as part of an effort to provide wireless carriers, advertisers and entertainment companies with more accurate data about mobile phone usage.

The move comes as a growing number of mobile phone owners use their multimedia and smartphones to access the internet and download media content including video clips.

Most mobile content is either free, or available on a subscription basis or pay-per-download basis and appears as an additional charge on mobile subscribers’ monthly bills.

Carriers are eager to boost mobile data usage and revenues in order to offset flat or declining voice average user revenues per subscriber. Mobile entertainment and advertising is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of revenue for both media and telecommunications companies in the next few years, as faster 3G wireless connections and more sophisticated phones become commonplace.

Mobile carriers and industry analysts are however concerned that many subscribers appear reluctant to pay extra for premium mobile data services constraining growth opportunities.

As a result carriers are cautiously exploring other ways of generating revenues from mobile data including advertising. Neilson’s new service, which will debut in July will initially use information culled from Nielsen’s existing electronic National People Meter TV sample to report on media behavior and audience demographics segmented by wireless carrier.

Later this year, Nielsen will expand the new Nielsen Mobile Vector service to include a survey of mobile phone users that will provide information about their consumption of mobile media content.

Data already compiled by Nielsen shows that more than 33m US consumers over the age of 12 used their cell phone to access the internet in the first quarter, while more than 8m watched video on their mobile phone. Total US wireless subscriptions are estimated at about 230m.

Significantly, the mobile media consumer is relatively affluent, with more than half of subscribers with video-ready mobile phones reporting annual household income of $75,000 or more, according to Nielsen Wireless. Nearly half of mobile video audience members are over the age of 35, while 54 per cent of the audience is male, the company said.

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