UK consumers support mobile broadband services quality controls

3 min read Networks & Network Services
New consumer research launched by YouGov and Acision, a mobile data company, reinforces the quality of service (QoS) challenges operators are facing with their mobile broadband services today.

The research, from YouGov, questioned UK consumers about their mobile broadband experience on smartphones, laptops and other mobile handsets. It found that, despite the rising popularity of mobile broadband, 84% had experienced QoS issues.

Slow speeds are amongst the most encountered problem (67%), poor network coverage (49%), inability to get connected (45%) and connection loss (40%).

Steven van Zanen, senior vice president marketing, mobile broadband, at Acision, said: “When reviewing the research, we identified three key areas where operators can deploy capabilities to raise QoS levels. The first one is defining fairness. When asked about the contentious issue of fair usage policies, 56% of research respondents were not aware if their operator had a fair usage policy in place and 71% were unaware that in many networks, 5% of users generate over 80 per cent of broadband traffic, causing slow download speeds and connection problems for all users.

“However, once aware of the issues surrounding the fair distribution of bandwidth, consumers responded positively to the option of allowing sophisticated fairness policies if this helped to improve the overall service.”

The research demonstrated that almost three quarters of respondents (74%) showed their support of an active approach to fairness aimed at distributing bandwidth between as many people as possible to ease congestion to benefit all users. Some respondents even agreed they would be happy to pay a small fee for this if it meant a better broadband service (49%).

“Content optimisation is a second area where operators can improve user experience,” said van Zanen. “While video is becoming increasingly popular, with over a third of consumers questioned (36%) accessing the data-hungry video sites via their mobile connection, the research highlighted that the quality of video services across mobile broadband performed particularly badly on a frequent basis.”

For example, the research highlighted that of those consumers accessing video services, over half (63%) of consumers experienced frequent pauses and, as many as 55% of video users experienced these problems on a regular basis. With video playback causing consumers problems, 48% agreed that they would be happy for their mobile operator to apply content adaptation policies such as reducing the size of videos being watched, if that ensured the video would playback without stalling/buffering and they were not able to see a difference in the video being played.

“This demonstrates that a majority of users would accept an optimisation policy which decreases video size in order to warrant uninterrupted playback. These video issues are all the more relevant as regular video users have a 9% higher ARPU then average users as they are consistently among the most active users of email, browsing, upload, video, music and online gaming services,” continued van Zanen.

This research also showed untapped potential for operators to differentiate their mobile broadband services, with a number of consumers stating they would be willing to pay a small fee to receive services such as data roaming packages when out of the country (58%); notifications when they have reached a certain spend limit on their mobile broadband service (56%); the option to update their bandwidth capacity when needed (49%); and the ability to set spending limits on their mobile broadband account (44%).

“Mobile broadband is a frequent topic of debate with UK consumers,” said Marek Vaygelt, head of consumer, technology and telecoms consulting, YouGov. “Mobile broadband growth has been faster than its fixed line counterpart, with usage increasing rapidly over the last few years.

“However, user habits have also changed with more focus on video and downloading data than simple web browsing. The research conducted for Acision clearly highlights that many consumers are suffering regular and significant problems with their mobile broadband and can be frustrated with the service they receive. It is also apparent that if approached in the right way, consumers may be open to content adaptation, service differentiation as well as the option of having bandwidth distributed fairly amongst all users to provide a better service.”

Continued van Zanen: “With recent announcements from mobile operators on data capping and new transparent pricing models, it is clear we have reached a juncture in the future of mobile broadband services. The cost of offering high-quality mobile broadband at flat fees is becoming increasingly difficult for operators and making it hard for them to recoup investments and operating costs. However, analysis of user spend on mobile broadband demonstrates a very wide range of spend levels. This provides ample space for differentiated packages and pricing points, which can be set by operators and enables fairness for all.”

He continued: “Our research indicates that while more needs to be done to raise customer satisfaction levels in mobile broadband services and provide better education on available packages, we can see there is broad consumer support to deploy capabilities to define fairness for all users, content adaptation and service differentiation. By acting now and asserting control over mobile data, operators have a solid base to raise satisfaction and loyalty levels while at the same time decreasing customer churn and providing a brighter mobile broadband future.”