Survey: Data tops speed for mobile users

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Research conducted by mobile network performance testing specialist RootMetrics by IHS Markit into consumer and business attitudes towards network loyalty, speed and 5G has challenged some of the industry’s conventional wisdom.

RootMetrics surveyed 1,000 consumers in both the UK and US, along with 500 enterprise users in each of those markets. The following are the research’s key findings:

  • Users tend to perceive their own carrier as the best.
  • When choosing a carrier, core services and value for money are considered the most important factors.
  • Users are increasingly demanding all-round packages.
  • The availability of better value for money elsewhere is the most likely reason for switching carriers.
  • Connectivity factors are becoming increasingly important.

Speed no longer enough for British mobile users – connectivity and reliability are critical

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we Brits are ever dependent on our smartphones,” says RootMetrics. “Whether it’s rushing to buy toilet roll from Amazon, ordering a takeaway from Deliveroo or monitoring Twitter for the government’s daily COVID-19 announcements, we cannot live without our phones.”

Network operators have long advertised the need for speed, but with more of us hot spotting at home during lockdowns, connectivity is now at the heart of consumer productivity and efficiency. In fact, the use of voice-call minutes rose by 20 per cent and data usage increased by 30 per cent during lockdown.

Among general consumers, the desire to have stronger call and text reliability now outstripped the cost as a motivating factor for choosing a new plan.

However, 82 per cent of high-intensity users (those who use eight or more apps a day) leaned more towards data allowance being the most important factor when choosing their next package. As an increasing number of us move into the high-intensity category of usage, operators should take note and ensure they are offering all-round packages to consumers.

“The attitudes and behaviour of high-intensity users in this study provide clues as to how carriers are going to be perceived moving forwards,” advises Kevin Hasley, Chief Executive Officer at RootMetrics. “This group is likely to grow in the next few years, both through a cohort effect and a likely change in everyone’s user behaviour. Users will demand more all-round packages, which provide all their growing needs and carriers will need to deliver on a wider range of factors more effectively to maintain loyalty and prevent consumers switching. The way we perceive value for money is also likely to change to reflect evolving user needs.”

Data suggests public sector lags in the race for 5G innovation

While 5G has been heralded as the next catalyst for mass innovation, only 57 per cent of public sector organisations in the UK consider 5G to be important. However, 90 per cent of US enterprise-sized businesses consider 5G important in future purchasing decisions, potentially leaving the UK in the slow lane when it comes to public innovation and disruption.

If Britain is to tackle its productivity challenges and set its stall out in a post-Brexit world, operators, industry and business need to educate one another about the benefits 5G can offer.

In contrast, there is a growing appreciation among consumers of the benefits of 5G. Close to half (47 per cent) consider it important that their next handset is 5G-ready, while only a third (33 per cent) based their previous purchasing decision on the same criteria.

Stick or twist? Age-old question diminishing in importance

We’ve all been there: your contract expires, and your operator offers you the same deal at a slightly higher monthly fee. As a result, you decide to go to another phone shop, are offered a marginally better deal and sign up – except that’s often no longer the case.

New survey data suggests consumers are more likely to stick with their existing carrier than switch to a competitor. Just under half of consumers in the UK (46 per cent) are currently happy with their carrier while 28 per cent plan to switch, and the proportion of like-minded consumers in the US (45 per cent) is very similar, with 33 per cent intending to change network provider.

High-intensity users are slightly more likely to switch (42 per cent) than stick with their existing carrier (37 per cent) and are now regarded as the ‘tipping point’ consumers of the future. They also tend to seek independent data to back up their purchasing decisions.

When asked whether they’d stay or move from an operator, consumers still take value for money into account. Overall, 38 per cent of all UK and 37 per cent of US consumers surveyed, believe value is a motivating factor in making a move. For users remaining with their current provider, the split between the two countries was clearer here: almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of users in the UK pointed to value as the overriding factor behind their decision to stay, whereas the equivalent figure in the US was 62 per cent.

There’s also great news for UK users on EE or Vodafone, as they are the least likely to switch networks.

The next 12 months is set to be a turbulent, hybrid-version of events. Office working patterns are set to change and limited customers allowed in stores and entertainment means we will be heavily reliant on our smartphones to live, work and play.

As 5G continues to improve and launch across the globe, more and more of us will begin to move to the high intensity user group, further putting pressure on mobile carriers to offer more. It is now up to the industry to ensure their services are ready to manage the new era of mobile usage, concludes RootMetrics.


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