MOBILE OPERATORS: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FIBRE
Friday, 11 February 2011 14:16
Operators must position mobile broadband as a complement to fixed, not as a substitute, according to a new report. By Heather McLean
Mobile broadband operators in markets with developed fixed broadband infrastructure should prepare for a decline in market growth. Recent research from Analysys Mason’s Connected Consumer survey indicates that interest in mobile broadband among non-subscribers declined slightly in all markets between 2009 and 2010, and subscriptions to mobile broadband are unlikely to grow at the same high level during the next year as they did in previous years.
Attempts to sell mobile broadband as a substitute for fixed are likely to fail, the report states, as there is a strong perception among consumers that mobile broadband is not as fast, more unreliable and more pricey than fixed broadband.
Over 70% of those expressing an opinion in the survey agreed with statements that mobile broadband was slower, less reliable and more expensive than fixed.
The differences between the two will become increasingly apparent as fixed operators deploy more fibre and double-digit megabit-per-second speeds, which most mobile networks will struggle to offer, become more common and more-commonly used, said Martin Scott, senior analyst for the survey of 6,000 European and US telecoms and media consumers.
Scott added: “The positive message for service providers here is that customers in developed markets have realistic expectations for mobile broadband, which means they are not taking it to be a direct equivalent to fixed broadband; if they were, they would likely be disappointed.
“Our research found that about 84% of mobile broadband subscribers also have a fixed broadband connection, and there is little evidence that these subscribers will drop their fixed line contracts; only 10% of those with both fixed and mobile broadband services stated that they intend to drop the fixed service,” he commented.
Mobile broadband also struggles to compete as a substitute for fixed because customers are increasingly happy with their fixed broadband service, said Scott, and those who have the greatest desire for mobile broadband and are the most willing to pay for it have already got it.
Of respondents who said they weren’t interested in mobile broadband, 72% said it was because they are happy with their fixed service, which is up from 65% last year. Scott noted: “The only way for operators to tap into this section of the market is to promote mobile broadband as a complementary service to fixed broadband, not as a substitute.”
Analysys Mason reckons that mobile operators’ best strategy to slow the decline in mobile broadband take-up is to emphasise the unique selling point of mobile broadband - mobility - and to quash all dreams of broadband domination.
Scott said mobility is the easiest method for selling mobile broadband into a customer base that is used to the benefits of fixed broadband. The study showed that 66% of non-mobile broadband subscribers consider it a key factor in motivating them to buy the service, ahead of price, convenience and other perks such as cheaper service bundles and access to premium content.
This is positive news for mobile operators, as potential motivations, such as network improvements and price reductions, hit operators’ pockets, whereas mobile broadband’s inherent mobility does not. Scott concluded: “Network improvements are costly to implement and, given the cost pressure on mobile broadband, it is unlikely that operators will reduce prices any further.”
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