Global Report: Mobile Broadband Providers Should Manage Own Networks

Global Report: Mobile Broadband Providers Should Manage Own Networks

Most customers polled in five nations would be willing to pay more for optimized mobile broadband services, a new report has found. Additionally, the report’s writers conclude broadband providers should be allowed to self-regulate the industry—especially as it applies to managing their own networks and providing services fairly to customers.

Acision, a multinational mobile data company with operations in 27 countries, released its report, “Seizing the Opportunity in Mobile Broadband: A Global Perspective,” on the opening day of the 2011 Mobile World Congress, held February 14 to 17 in Barcelona, Spain.

Among the study’s findings: 63 percent of poll respondents are willing to pay more for improved mobile broadband quality, and “capacity is a physically constrained resource where demand fundamentally outstrips supply for the foreseeable future. If left ‘free’ and unchecked, congestion becomes a permanent feature of the mobile broadband service turning it into a service which is very difficult to use in any real sense of the word.”

‘Proactive Operator Strategies’

Acision commissioned three market research agencies—YouGov, Quantinet, and Toluna—to perform a detailed survey of consumer mobile broadband perceptions. The study was conducted between June and November 2010.

Researchers conducted panel discussions and submitted questionnaires to more than 1,000 consumers aged 18 and up in each of five markets: North America, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Singapore. Research for each region covered mobile broadband employed for Internet access on smartphones, mobile handsets, dongles, modem sticks, data cards, Netbooks, and integrated mobile broadband within laptops.

Acision Senior Vice President Steven van Zanen noted in a company press statement, “The motivation to undertake this global research has been the phenomenal uptake of mobile broadband worldwide and the rumored quality-of-experience issues accompanying its steady rise.… We have been surprised by the remarkable resemblance between these different markets and see a clear basis for proactive operator strategies to seize the opportunity that exists in mobile broadband.”

‘A Constrained Resource’

The Acision study argues any application of network neutrality principles should be applied by mobile broadband operators instead of government regulators. Commonly understood as ensuring equal treatment of customers’ Internet use and access without any provider interference in network traffic, the study’s authors conclude net neutrality “does not consider the interest of all stakeholders involved.”

Instead, they write: “Operators, content providers, regulatory bodies and consumers need to work together to agree on a clear definition of ‘fairness’ that can be applied uniformly across the market. The debate is essential to the fundamentals of the industry and it is essential that all parties, including operators, are heard to ensure a fair and sustainable outcome is achieved. For operators there is an opportunity to lead in this area and build a reputation of Internet transparency, fairness, and trustworthiness.”

‘Demand Outstrips Supply’

The report summarizes its network management recommendations as follows: “The fair treatment of all stakeholders in the eco system, consumers, content providers and network operators alike, is another vital requirement in a constrained resource. Especially as it is inevitable that demand outstrips supply and consumers continuously contend for more capacity than is available. The only way to deal with this is to apply fairness principles. Is it fair that some people take the lion’s share of available bandwidth just because they are smarter Internet users? Should someone who has been watching videos all day be treated exactly the same as someone who is just logging on? Clearly not.”

The authors conclude operators “need to control traffic levels at certain peak times, locations, service types and specific individuals to free-up capacity. By making more efficient use of the network and spreading the freed-up excess capacity over other users, the network cost per user can be brought down. In essence this is a matter of maximizing network utilization, ensuring network demand is spread out evenly over the day and the number of concurrent subscribers that can be supported is maximized.”

Other Findings

The report included several specific findings about mobile broadband use:

•    71 percent of consumers use mobile regularly throughout the week;

•    79 percent of consumers encounter problems of some kind, including slow speeds (62 percent), network coverage problems (39 percent), and connection drops (36 percent);

•    74 percent of video consumers report frequent pausing and long waiting times;

•     60 percent of consumers stated reliability, coverage, or speed as the most important service aspect;

•    40 percent identified price, usage allowance, or usage control as most important;

•    29 percent report dissatisfaction with current coverage;

•    28 percent report dissatisfaction with pricing levels;

•    79 percent of customers claim quality problems of some kind, including slow speeds (62 percent), limited network coverage (39 percent), inconsistent connection stability, and inability to connect (both at 36 percent);

•    21 percent of respondents state they haven’t experienced any problems;

•    of the 37 percent of consumers who said they watched videos, 74 percent reported quality problems and 54 percent reported long waits and frequent pauses;

•    63 percent of consumers expressed a desire for value-added services and a willingness to pay additional fees for them, such as notifications (41 percent); fair bandwidth management (35 percent); and roaming (34 percent.

 Marc Oestreich (moestreich@heartland.org) is a legislative specialist at The Heartland Institute.

On the Internet

“Seizing the Opportunity in Mobile Broadband: A Global Perspective,” Acision, February 14, 2011: http://www.heartland.org/infotech-news.org/article/29357/Seizing_the_Opportunity_in_Mobile_Broadband.html