Recently, Ericsson ConsumerLab conducted a survey and brought out a report that uncovers six calls to action from consumers, which operators must act on, in order to drive consumer satisfaction and to monetize mobile broadband for a 5G future.

 

The promise of 5G has the potential to completely change the way we interact with wireless devices, from smartphones to cars. Though the unknowns are many and there are still technical issues to be resolved, a 5G future ultimately depends on consumer and business expectations.

 

Titled ‘An Ericsson Consumer and Industry Insight Report’, released in January 2018, the report elucidates on how imperative it is to understand whether the vision set out by current wireless technologies and telecom operators’ offerings – specifically mobile broadband plans – meets consumer expectations today, bearing 5G in mind.

 

The Survey

 

In July 2017, 1,000 smartphone users in 14 countries participated in an online survey. A total of 14,000 iPhone and Android smartphone users aged between 15 and 65 took part in the survey.

 

The views expressed in the survey are representative of 800 million smartphone users across Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US.

 

In addition to the survey, Ericsson ConsumerLab, together with Tefficient, analyzed and benchmarked mobile broadband strategies of operators globally. Data from App Annie has also been used for this report. App Annie’s Android data on smartphone data consumption is derived from a large global panel of real-world users, combined with additional proprietary data sets.

 

Ericsson’s report uncovers six calls to action from consumers, which operators must act on, to drive consumer satisfaction and monetize mobile broadband for a 5G future.

 

Consumers’ Six Calls to Action

 

Call 1: Provide us with an effortless buying experience

 

Consumers want effortless digital simplicity from providers

 

The telecom market is extremely difficult for consumers to navigate; 57 percent of smartphone users find it complicated to understand what is included in mobile data plans. A similar proportion says that wading through all the options for the best plan is confusing.

 

Given this complexity, half of all smartphone users are unaware of their plan’s data allowance and 7 in 10 users are unsure how much mobile data they consume monthly. This results in a gross misalignment between what consumers buy and what they use.

 

The report suggests that the operator’s challenge is to simplify the purchase process, bring about greater transparency regarding usage and meet consumers’ evolving needs, demands and expectations.

 

Call 2: Offer us a sense of unlimited

 

Smartphone users are not necessarily looking for limitless data plans but rather a sense of unlimited

 

In theory, unlimited data plans ease consumers’ decision making since it takes away the need to decide what data bucket volume to buy. Ericsson’s report details that however, the aforementioned advantage is marginal; only 44 percent of unlimited mobile data plan users globally are very satisfied that plans are communicated simply and transparently, versus 34 percent on mobile data plans with fixed allowances.

 

One possible reason for this is that unlimited plans also have certain limitations. Some are restricted by internet speeds, as has been seen in Finland; others, by a lowered quality of video streaming, imposing restrictions on tethering or reducing speeds and deprioritization of traffic after reaching the fair usage policy limits (depending on plan details), as seen in the US.

 

Hence, smartphone users are not necessarily looking for limitless data plans but rather a sense of unlimited, so that they feel they have enough data to cater to their needs. The report suggests that it would seem that having enough, not necessarily unlimited, mobile data to cater to users’ needs is the key to satisfaction.

 

Call 3: Treat gigabytes as currency

 

Consumers want to treat unused gigabytes as they would their extra money.

 

As consumers become increasingly aware of the amount of unused data they are left with each month, demand to treat these gigabytes as currency is growing. Consumers want to treat unused gigabytes as they would their extra money. Two in five users considers gigabytes as actual currency and expect to be able to save, trade or even gift this unused data to others.

 

Call 4: Offer us more than just data buckets

 

Considering the diversity of users’ needs, operators need to innovate beyond just offering data buckets.

 

The survey assessed the relative importance of 15 features by consumers that might drive their choice of a particular mobile data plan. These features could be used by telecom operators or are being used to evolve current data plans.

 

Mobile internet speeds are considered most important in the data plan selection, having one-third of relative importance. Despite this, most operators continue to sell plans by volume and do not differentiate on speed tiers.

 

Considering the diversity of users’ needs, operators need to innovate beyond just offering data buckets and instead consider how mobile broadband plans work for specific users and in the context of the devices and services they connect to the network.

 

Call 5: Give us more with 5G

 

Half of all smartphone users state that 5G will change the way they think about monthly mobile broadband bills today.

 

5G and its promises are already creating huge expectations. Most consumers expect speed and coverage improvements from 5G. Half of all smartphone users state that 5G will change the way they think about monthly mobile broadband bills today.

 

The challenge for operators preparing for 5G is to keep up with the high expectations of early adopters. A shift towards service-based pricing or perhaps creating a sense of unlimited could be a savvy move by carriers, as the transition to 5G ultimately will not involve consumers paying per gigabyte but rather an unlimited future.

 

Call 6: Keep networks real for us

 

Consumers are calling on operators to focus on network experience

 

Moving into a 5G future, three in five smartphone users are concerned that 4G connectivity will be marketed as 5G even before 5G networks are widely available. Consumers are calling on operators to steer clear of baseless marketing slogans and instead to focus on network experience, thus keeping networks more honest in their marketing.