Consumers Disenchanted With 3G, Says U.K. Survey

As engineers and key executives start packing their bags for the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the biggest trade show for mobile industry, they will be chastened to read

February 10, 2006

2 Min Read
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LONDON — As engineers and key executives start packing their bags for the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the biggest trade show for mobile industry, they will be chastened to read the results of new research that suggests that the majority of U.K. consumers are pretty disenchanted about the services they are being offered on their smart 3G phones.

The poll, based on responses from just over 2000 business users and consumers, and conducted by YouGov on behalf of mobile network management company Netonomy, found that they are finding mobile services increasingly confusing and that issues around ease-of-use are still holding them back from buying and using 3G handsets and services.

YouGov found that 79 percent of respondents consider mobile phone services are getting more complicated to understand and configure, compared with 71 percent of respondents in a similar survey carried out in January 2005.

Even more disturbingly, at least for the operators, 73 percent of the early-adopters that already own 3G phones rarely use the services and applications available to them. Indeed 28 percent never use them at all.

Of those respondents that did not already own a 3G phone, less than half (47 percent, and up from 45 percent last year) were confident that they would find 3G phones and services easy-to-use and only 8 per cent are considering upgrading to a 3G phone.However, it is not all gloom. The percentage of respondents planning to upgrade to a 3G handset has doubled from 4 percent to 8 percent, but unfortunately it still remains in the single digits.

“This research is likely to be a bit disappointing for the mobile industry,” comments John Hughes, cofounder and executive vice president of Netonomy. “While there has been an increase since we asked the same question a year ago, real consumer demand for 3G is still low.

Operators have spent billions of dollars on 3G licenses, and billions more on developing the technology, but it still looks like customers are fairly indifferent.”

And there was also more promising statistics Friday (Feb 10) from the UMTS Forum, which says there are now 50 million 3G subscribers worldwide. Surprisingly, the Forum suggests that the W-CDMA air interface version of 3G is more popular in Europe than the traditionally more advanced Japanese market. Half of all 3G users are in Europe, the figures indicate.

However, with estimates that there are now 2 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide, there is still some way to go.The UMTS Forum suggests that the impetus the industry will get from the numerous demonstrations of the faster data rate HSDPA technology in Barcelona will significantly increase the take up of 3G networks in Europe.

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