Network coverage more important than applications

14 Feb 2005

Mobile phone users are more likely to select mobile phone services based on value-for-money tariffs and network coverage over the look and feel of a phone or the fancy features and applications it sports, a survey has found. In fact, choice of mobile manufacturer was ranked lowest.

The survey, carried out by Hewlett-Packard spin-off Agilent Technologies, looked at mobile usage patterns in the UK and found that 66pc of phone users felt that tariff for usage is the most important factor in selecting a mobile phone.

Other less important factors are the look and feel of the phone (42pc), functionality (33pc) and the handset manufacturer (31pc).

However, all of these factors combined are substantially more important to the more technically oriented and fashion-conscious younger age groups.

For example, the look and feel of the phone is more important to 18-24 year olds than the network they are connected to (68pc and 62pc respectively) and around half of this age group include the handset manufacturer as an important factor (49pc compared to 31pc of all age groups).

Functionality is far more important to the under-35s than older age groups (cited by 60pc of 18-24 year olds as an important factor.

Texting is the function that those sampled use most frequently – 71pc said that they text at least once every two weeks, in comparison with just over half 52pc voice calling. Other functions are restricted to the minority but are clearly gaining ground, with nearly a fifth saying that they use picture messaging and many more using games, email and internet via their mobile phones.

Again, usage was strongly age biased, with 18-24 year olds substantially more likely to use most functions – over 40pc of this age group claim to use picture messaging and games on a regular basis, and more than 90pc text regularly.

In terms of network connections, 60pc of all adults reported having experienced some network connection problems in the last two years, particularly in terms of frequency and times of use. Some 78pc of 18-24 year olds reported problems compared with only 29pc of over-65s.

The most frequently cited problem was poor reception quality for voice calls (42pc overall and 63pc of 18-24 year olds), whilst more than a third reported inability to the connect to the network at all.

Others cited loss/disconnection of calls (25pc overall, 40pc of 18-24 year olds) and lost data (21pc overall and 49pc of 18-24 year olds.

“This sends a clear message to operators that at this stage in the evolution of the mobile arena, there are more than enough features in mobile phones today to satisfy all parts of the user base,” Tom White of Agilent Technologies told “The most important factor appealing to all age groups is the quality of calls and connectivity.

“If you look at what the network operators have done over the past 10 years it is staggering. They have evolved from analog to digital, from GSM to GPRS and 3G. However, people are still aspiring to putting the same confidence that they have in a landline connection into that of a mobile connection. That is something that mobile operators need to aspire to.

“But I believe one day all mobile telephony will be of a similar standard to landline connectivity. The quality will improve as we move from one generation to the next. Operators will eventually fight for market share based on the quality of calls as much as they fight today about tariffs and new mobile applications,” White said.

By John Kennedy