Mobile technology, mobile Internet access, and m-commerce are growing rapidly on the global stage; however, growth rates vary widely across economic regions. The penetration rate of mobile phones, the optimum combination of different generations of telecommunications, and the combination of different technical formats vary according to a wide array of economic, sociocultural, and policy-related factors. The ways in which companies integrate m-commerce applications into their business models depend upon numerous environmental factors, particularly the combination of communications technologies previously adopted and the mobile technologies currently diffusing in their domestic economies. Given the scope for technological leapfrogging and alternative national mixes of fixed lines and wireless infrastructures, global heterogeneity in national patterns of m-commerce development—and hence, of business models in m-commerce—appears to be a likely prospect for the foreseeable near future.
An interesting consequence of this global heterogeneity is the tenuousness of the distinction between "leading" and "lagging" countries. Nations that "lag" in fixed-line telephony or Internet use stand to benefit proportionately more from mobile technologies and may, in some cases, be better positioned to innovate their use; though it is always dangerous to speculate, there is some indication that industrialized East Asian countries may fall into this category. Yet not all nations that rank as "leaders" in m-commerce necessarily have cause to celebrate; many European countries, for example, are concerned that their carriers exhausted their financial resources in the development of 3G and may be unable to follow through in infrastructural development of mobile technologies. By the same token, the U.S. "lag" in m-commerce may not prove to be a long-term handicap; in fact, the U.S. lag in 3G may accelerate the exploration of technological alternatives like Wi-Fi or UWB. Thanks to NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, Japan is assuredly a "leader" in m-commerce; yet this leadership position is partly conditioned by the fact that i-mode represents, to a significant extent, a Japan-specific substitute for fixed-line Internet usage; the industrial and export benefits of this leadership position are far from certain.