Mobile marketing is becoming increasingly important. The channel-agnostic customer is also a multi-device consumer and smart phones play an increasing role in communication, networking, social media usage and entertainment.

In case you are not convinced: according to Morgan Stanley, within five years the number of mobile Internet users will surpass the number of desktop Internet users. And, according to the TNS Digital Life report, mobile users spend 3.1 hours/week on social networks and 2.2 hours on email. By the way: did you know that more people own an iPhone than people use Twitter? Or that more people own a smart phone than use Facebook? So it’s really not exaggerated to say that marketers should be well informed regarding the mobile evolutions.

Juniper Research has released its top ten wireless predictions for 2011, let’s step through and take a look at where they think mobile is going in the coming year.

1 More mobile traffic will make even greater demands on 3G networks

The consumer smart phone boom will continue to put increasing pressure on 3G networks. It’s likely we will see even more providers resorting to tiered pricing plans for data. Juniper predicts that this and the use of WiFi for capacity relief may alleviate some of the problem, but the real solution will be mass deployment of LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks.

2 Augmented reality will enhance games and retail

Augmented reality allows you to overlay computer generated graphics and interfaces with the real world. For example, you can try on fashions from your PC or smart phone. When you combine the power of geo location with AR and games, you have one powerful marketing tool! How long will it be before you have shoppers blinding bumping into each other as they stumble around a store playing “find the value” games?

3 Launch of cloud-based operating systems

Juniper believes 2011 will see the first cloud-based mobile operating systems launched. Word has it that Google will launch it’s Chrome cloud OS in early 2011.

4 Mobile banking a must have

What passes the time nicely as you ride that commuter train? Banking of course! Juniper is predicting that banks will move to make mobile banking a key feature for smart phone users in 2011. The challenge will be making the sign-up process effortless and the experience personalized.

5 Goodbye plastic and hello mobile

2011 might be the year we see smart phones start to replace plastic for smaller credit card purchases in some countries. Google has announced that it will support NFC (Near Field Communications) in the next release of its Android mobile OS. Other mobile makers such as Nokia are also deploying phones with NFC. Juniper cautions it won’t all happen at once though – it’s going to take some time for stores to deploy contactless readers and of course, there is the issue of user adoption.

6 Mobile handsets will evolve into the Tri-corder from Start Trek

We already have built in features such as GPS and gyroscopes (so your phone knows when you pass out at the company Christmas party). Will we soon be able to “scan” for life forms too? Look for biometrics, proximity, temperature, 3D and projectors to become standard features as well. What will marketers do with these innovations and how much more annoying will smart phone users become in theatres and public transportation?

7 More than your phone number may come up

Juniper expects to see a lot of growth in mobile lotteries in the next year. Is this a good thing? A mixed blessing at best; on the upside it may reduce “lust dust” waste (the scrapings from rub-off lottery tickets) on the downside, it may add to the problem of gambling addictions.

8 More mobile threats mean more demand for security

The mobile market is prime territory for AV vendors. It’s likely to be a hot topic and be prepared for a fair amount of fear mongering from vendors to drive home the point that you absolutely must have anti-virus and firewall protection on your smart phone.

9 Buyouts and social purchasing power

The rumours about Google gobbling up Groupon are an indication to Juniper that this acquisition would have the same impact on mobile advertising that Google’s acquisition of AdMob did (PS: since Juniper published the predictions, Groupon has rejected Google’s offer).

10 More smart phone makers get environmentally smart

Juniper also expects to see a bigger push from more smart phone makers to appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer by producing phones which are greener and have a smaller impact on the environment.