Wireless TowerFast, high-quality mobile network performance along with continual innovation and expansion of digital service offerings are the keys for network providers to attract new customers and strengthen customer loyalty, according to Accenture’s global “Mobile Web Watch 2013: The New Persuaders” report.

Mobile Internet speed was the “top differentiator” cited by survey respondents when evaluating alternative communications service providers (CSPs): 97% said speed was most important, and 78% said there was room for improvement. Nearly two-thirds (63%) “said they would pay additional monthly fees for mobile Internet service that would be 10 times faster than their current connection, indicating that providers’ investments in high-speed data networks, such as 4G, could reap benefits,” Accenture states in a press release.

That said, consumers’ willingness to pay for faster mobile Internet service varies between emerging and mature markets: 76% of respondents in emerging markets said they would be willing to pay an additional monthly fee, and that number rose to as high as 83% in Brazil and Russia. That compares to 57% in mature markets, except those in Italy (71%) and Finland (70%).

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Providing outstanding quality of service is another necessity in order to satisfy customers, Accenture found: 96% said quality of network is important. Following closely was area of coverage (95%) and connection speed (95%). Moreover, 94% said the cost of data is “slightly less important than quality, coverage, or connection speed. Just under 90% of respondents cited customer service as being important.

“Mobility is not only driving convergence, but it is also accelerating consumers’ appetites for a high-quality, seamless experience on their mobile devices,” said Monte Hong, Accenture’s managing director- Global Communications Industry and Asia Pacific Communications Industry lead in a press release.

“These days, every business is a digital business, and consumers are looking for the kinds of personal relationships that were typical years ago, between shoppers and their neighborhood store. To stay in the game, providers must deliver the variety of services consumers and businesses want – on fast, reliable, secure networks – or they will struggle to keep up with competitors at every turn.”

Non-traditional mobile service providers including device manufacturers and financial institutions are competing with telecom providers for customer loyalty, according to Accenture. Thirty-one percent of all consumers and 42% in emerging markets said they would look to device manufacturers for all their communications needs, including packaged communications bundles providing audio and video calls, messaging, e-mails, and access to applications on their mobile devices.

More than half (56%) said they would switch to a provider that offered mobile payments if their current carrier did not. Banks were the preferred providers of mobile payments (89%), followed by payment card providers (81%) and mobile providers (77%).

Seventy-nine percent of emerging market respondents said they would choose mobile network operators as their mobile payment service provider as compared to 70% in mature markets. Mobile device manufacturers were selected by 69% of those in emerging markets as compared to 54% in mature markets. Sixty-eight percent of respondents in emerging markets and 46% in mature markets said they would turn to Web portals, while 64% in emerging markets and 41% in mature markets said they would look to social network operators for mobile payment services.

In addition, 46% of all respondents – 54% in emerging markets – would want their mobile network provider to offer cloud services, according to Accenture’s report.

Accenture also found that location-based services are rising in importance with customers: 72% of those surveyed who have access to the Internet via a smartphone or tablet would disclose their location via their mobile device. “Nearly half would do so when searching for information on nearby shops or similar facilities, and 35 percent would disclose their location for discounts or coupons from retailers in their local area,” according to the press release.

Rapidly growing smartphone penetration is also driving Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) telephony higher: 32% of all smartphone users regularly use their devices to make Internet-based calls. Thirty-nine percent in emerging markets said they do so regularly, rising to 44% globally for those who own Apple iPhones and 41% on 4G networks. That would rise to 47% globally if network connection speed and quality improves, and 60% in emerging markets, Accenture said.

Accenture surveyed 30,900 Internet users in 26 countries in carrying out its research, including those in emerging markets – Brazil, India and China – as well as mature markets, including France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. among others.

“There are certainly challenges for providers, especially in the face of technology developments – including mobility, analytics, cloud, digital services, and social networks – that are accelerating convergence,” Hong commented.

“As a disruptive force, convergence is a threat to the unprepared, but CSPs can compete by assuring quality of service as they address customers’ demands, manage new traffic patterns or reconsider the structure of data plans. There are also potential opportunities in mobile payment services – perhaps by collaborating with financial institutions.

“CSPs can also consider cloud-based and location-based services, using tools like analytics to help ensure deep insight into subscribers’ behavior, which will help CSPs deliver an innovative, consistent digital experience to their customers.”

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