British dissatisfied with mobile connectivity

According to a new survey released today from RootMetrics, an IHS Markit company, barely half of mobile users in the UK (53%) are satisfied with their mobile upload and download speeds, underlining the importance of 5G deployment to companies like EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. The findings counter industry cynicism about the need for 5G investment and will underline to operators that successful 5G rollout can be a differentiator with consumers. EE and Three have the highest levels of satisfaction with speeds (57% and 58% respectively), with O2 ranking worst (51%).

5G uses higher frequencies which offer more speed and higher bandwidth, both key selling points to consumers. However, it also requires small cell infrastructure placed close to users, as opposed to huge, centralised cellular towers. Thus, there is enormous consumer benefit, but also high infrastructure costs, and striking this balance has been a sticking point.

Kevin Hasley, Head of Product at RootMetrics and Executive Director of Performance Benchmark at IHS Markit, said: “5G will flush everything out and become a ubiquitous technology for connectivity in metro areas – no more Wi-Fi. At the moment operators in the UK are involved in a bit of a cat and mouse game with each other and government about who will invest first in the infrastructure. Clearly mobile operators need to plan their capital expenditure carefully, but 5G will be a key battleground to winning subscribers in the near future and there is first mover advantage here.”

The economic case could be there, however. A majority of all operators’ customers (79 percent) said they would be willing to pay marginally more if it could provide faster connectivity speed and higher reliability. O2 customers represented the most inclined (17 percent) to pay ten pounds or more for a better service, a fact that is likely explained by O2 consistently ranking fourth of the four major operators in RootMetrics’ performance testing.

However, the survey revealed price is currently seen to be of primary importance when choosing a carrier with two-thirds (63 percent) of UK consumers describing cost as the defining factor in their decision. Reliability came in a not so distant second (53 percent) amongst consumers who recognised its importance in the selection process.

Kevin Hasley continued: “People say they would pay more for better connectivity and that option is 100 percent available to them at the time of renewal, but many then make the decision on price alone. It is a false economy and people end up biting their nose to spite their face. In most areas of life we make decisions based on what we think is value for money, not just purely price motivated ones. Many among us have a tendency to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

Key metrics around mobile internet performance also become more important for carriers in the context of shifting consumer preferences. The RootMetrics survey found that consumers feel consistency and reliability is more important in terms of internet usage than it is around calls and texts.

RootMetrics frequently issues nationwide mobile performance results based on scientific testing of operators’ networks, providing mobile users with independent information on how they can get the best mobile performance where they live, work and play.

The Blame Game

Survey respondents were also presented with a number of scenarios relating to poor mobile performance and asked where they would place the blame. A common trend picked up by the report was in every scenario except two, customers were more likely to make the carrier responsible for the fault. This included scenarios such as calls dropping, texts not being delivered, delays in posting a photo to social media and noticeable drops in video streaming quality.

One scenario where consumers were less likely to blame mobile operators was calls dropping in rural locations, perhaps alleviating concerns about the difficulties of extending 5G beyond populated areas.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine