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Mobile operators are failing consumers, says Ericsson

Ericsson consumer report

© Ericsson

  • Survey outlines six calls to action for operators regarding mobile broadband
  • 60 per cent of smartphone users say mobile data plans are too complex
  • 40 per cent want to use monthly excess data from plans as currency
  • As Ericsson takes a $1.8 billion hit from its latest corporate restructuring

Wait a minute, all you mobile operators and service providers who are charging after the promise of new business from vertical industries that may just emerge from 5G networks and associated business models – don’t forget it was the humble consumer who got you where you are today. And we humble consumers are not impressed by what you continue to call “services”. No sir. In fact we’re as mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. At least according to a new report from Ericsson.

With the title “Towards a 5G consumer future: six calls to action from consumers for operators to rethink mobile broadband”, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is just another rather shrill marketing exercise to pump up the excitement over 5G. Not quite. The report actually focuses on today’s smartphone consumers and their current concerns and woes. It then distils this down to six calls to action that it says operators must act on, to drive consumer satisfaction and (here we go, marketing time) “monetize mobile broadband for a 5G future”.

Well never mind the 5G future, which is still years away – in terms of the enhanced mobile broadband use case – strip away the ill-advised crystal ball gazing and focus instead on the current shortcomings of mobile broadband. The six consumer requests are: 

  1. Provide a more effortless buying experience: Consumers perceive the telecom market to be too complex with 60 per cent of smartphone users grappling with the complexity of mobile data plans.
  2. Offer a true sense of what “unlimited” means: Apparently peace of mind rather than actual use is the main motivator behind buying unlimited data plans and operators are urged to explore alternative ways to offer this perception of freedom.
  3. Treat gigabytes as currency: The average smartphone user has 31GB of unused mobile data left over per year, and 40 per cent of consumers would like to use this excess as currency and expect to be able to save, trade or gift unused data.
  4. Offer more than just “data buckets”: Faster broadband speeds and fair wireless contracts are considered more important than today’s popular (at least amongst telcos) data buckets, and consumers want operators to innovate, evolve and personalise data plans.
  5. Give us more with 5G: Okay, venturing into the dangerous area of asking consumers about a technology that none of them yet understand… yet it shows the power of early marketing. Ericsson says 44 per cent of consumers are “willing to pay for 5G”. No shit. How many people do you know who refuse to pay for 4G? Anyone? Apparently consumers predict an end to paying for gigabytes consumed and instead expect to pay a single fee for each 5G service or connected device. Someone should tell the operators.
  6. Finally, keep networks real for us: this one we love – consumers are calling on operators to avoid baseless marketing slogans and instead focus on real network experience, increasing the honesty of their marketing. Hear, hear.

“Our latest study does not look at a consumer view on 5G in isolation, but rather uncovers unmet consumer needs that must be fulfilled by operators on the way to 5G,” said Jasmeet Sethi, Senior Advisor, Ericsson Consumer & Industry Lab. “From offering an effortless buying experience to focusing on real network performance, consumers are demanding changes they would like to see already made today.”

Honestly, this survey doesn’t need the 5G hook to deliver its message. It contains some highly pertinent messages that CSPs need to heed, despite dressing up the report with statements such as “the report represents the views of 800 million smartphone users worldwide” – really? All of them?

Given that the first set of 5G standards were only completed in late December, just a few weeks ago, and that it will be 2020 before we see the emergence of full 5G systems in limited commercial use, and that the industry is still arguing about new business models and how to monetise network investment, it is premature to say the least to get too excited about consumer acceptance of 3GPP-standards-compliant 5G.

Yes, a good percentage of mobile users will have heard of 5G as an evolution to 3G and 4G, but that’s all. So it’s no wonder that the top expectations of 5G from the report start with “should be many times faster than 3G/4G”, “should have speed better than WiFi networks”, “better outdoor and indoor coverage” and “better reliability” – these are just evolutionary service improvements. It’s also no surprise that “less expensive price plans” is also high on consumers’ wish lists, although this particular request is unlikely to figure so prominently on telcos’ wish lists…

Oh, and did anyone mention a $1.8 billion write down? No, we didn’t miss it. Full details of Ericsson’s impairment testing and its consequences can be found here.

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