Critical mass for 3G data a ‘pipe dream’

11 Aug 2005

While global 3G subscriber numbers are predicted to grow to 30 million by 2010, consumers are still turned off by over-complicated devices and poor customer care and the advent of critical mass for non-voice 3G is still a pipe dream, according to a report from Juniper Research.

According to Juniper, power has shifted to a more discerning user community that is spoilt for choice and yet appears fazed by the complexity of mobile phones and the plethora of services on offer.

Juniper estimates the total mobile subscriber market will reach 2.7 billion by 2010 and that shipments of handsets will break the one billion mark by 2009 on the back of emerging Asia-Pacific markets and increasing replacement rates in mature markets.

3G subscribers are predicted to grow from 30 million in 2004 to more than 300 million by 2010. However, whilst representing a step-jump in technology for delivering current services with better quality, 3G’s benefits derive more from its ability to accommodate greater numbers of users and network traffic, especially voice, than its support of advanced services delivery.

The industry is still too preoccupied with technology advances and not focused enough on what makes users tick, says Juniper. Vendors and operators must stop filling mobiles with catch-all baskets of features. In a high-demand environment where the user is king the way forward is to adopt a more sophisticated needs and segmentation-based approach to the design of handsets and services.

There is also a pressing industry-wide need for more empathetic customer care. Service providers need to review how services are presented and take greater control of their relationships with customers, ensuring, especially, that they are set up with what they need as part of the provisioning process. Better still, argues Juniper, why not learn from the automotive and PC industries and offer full-blown customisation?

“Most consumers are turned off by hi-tech acronyms, brand battles or technology for technology’s sake,” says Trevor Howell, author of the report. “They want useful services tailored to their needs that can be accessed at the push of a button, at a price they can afford, and on a tariff structure they can understand, and they want someone to set it all up for them before they switch on. Whoever gets this right will reap the benefits of increased average revenue per user.”

By John Kennedy