With LTE deployments well under way, operators are now thinking beyond simply launching 4G and are focused more on market strategies and the next stages of the evolutionary roadmap. Telecom Asia and analyst firm Ovum teamed up once again for an online mobile broadband survey to dig deeper into those strategies. The survey covers a lot of ground, but an executive summary of the APAC results goes like this:
Mobile has never been stronger as a broadband proposition. While operators are concentrated on getting the basic business model right - and zeroing in on strategies to boost ARPU and improve the customer experience - there’s also a clear understanding that the network itself is the key asset to achieving those business and operational goals. Meanwhile, big data and third-party OTT content are also part of the plan.
In the early days of 4G, operators were focused mainly on price and/or speed as the main market differentiators. But that focus has clearly shifted to service quality.
For both cellcos and integrated operators, QoS ranked as the single most important differentiator in our survey for the third straight year. Speed and price ranked second and third for integrated operators, but for cellcos, speed and price were tied for second place.
“QoS reigns supreme in today’s data-fueled world,” observes Nicole McCormick, principal analyst at Ovum. “Today, price is less of a differentiator, especially in developed markets where the nature of the game is customer retention.”
One notable finding: coverage ranked dead last, echoing comments made by Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp earlier this year that coverage doesn’t mean much if the connection is crap and unreliable.
Turn up the volume
Pricing still matters, of course - if not as a primary differentiator, then certainly as a way for operators to get the most value out of their data pipe. There are many different ways to approach pricing, but if everyone agrees on one thing, it’s that unlimited plans are lousy pricing models, even if sometimes they’re necessary.
Less than a fifth of respondents named unlimited plans as “the most effective way to charge for consumer mobile broadband”. For everyone else, data volume-based models are the way to go, though opinions differ as to what (if anything) should be bundled with data. For cellcos, roughly the same percentage of respondents (around 22%) favor standalone data volume models, or data volume bundled with content or speed. Integrated operators prefer speed+data volume bundles, though bundled content also made a good showing.