Over three quarters of UK users satisfied with mobile provider

UK communications regulator Ofcom has released research showing that while overall levels of consumer satisfaction with mobile networks are high, an estimated 45 per cent of users experience some problems. Moreover, around 30 per cent of users experience no reception at least once a week.

Ofcom hired network testing specialist RootMetrics to test network performance in urban, rural and remote areas of the UK for each of the country’s mobile networks: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. The organisation also polled users to get additional feedback.

Overall, 76 per cent of consumers are estimated to be satisfied with their network. This rises to 78 per cent in urban areas and drops to 67 per cent in rural areas. Interestingly the figure rises back to 70 per cent in remote areas.

A total of 55 per cent surveyed said they never or hardly ever had to put up with no mobile signal or reception, while nearly a third (30 per cent) suffered such problems at least every week. This suggests that around 15 per cent suffer less frequent outages.

The data found that the majority of users said they never, or hardly ever, had a blocked call (69 per cent) or dropped call (65 per cent). However, a fifth said they experienced blocked calls and slightly more (22 per cent) dropped calls at least once a week, and this increases in rural areas, where coverage is thinner.

According to the RootMetrics data, EE was the most reliable network, with 97 per cent of calls successfully connected. O2 was just behind with a 95.3 per cent success rate, followed by Three with 94.5 per cent and finally Vodafone with 92.6 per cent.

Ofcom said that all four mobile providers are now meeting the 90 per cent coverage obligations for 3G mobile. The most recent auction for 4G licensing was designed in such a way that one licence – acquired by O2 – has to roll out 4G to cover at least 98 per cent of the UK population when indoors by 2017 at the latest. This results in more than 99 per cent coverage for 4G when outdoors.

The other UK mobile operators have indicated they intend to match the 98 per cent coverage, which will extend mobile broadband coverage into many areas still underserved by 3G.

Ofcom is also working with the Government on its £150m mobile infrastructure project, which is funding mobile phone masts in uncovered areas as well as an initiative from the Department for Transport and Network Rail on improving mobile services on railways, including proposals to invest £53m in improving wifi access on trains.

Network software firm Oracle, one of the cheerleaders of the customer experience management movement, did a survey a few months ago that touched on a similar topic and concluded that consumers largely stick with their current mobile operator not because they’re impressed with the service but because they feel there are no better alternatives. Although these findings were in the minority of users.

Oracle said that 39 per cent of its respondents said the reason they have not switched to a new operator is because they believe the services offered by rival communications service providers are no better than the one they currently receive, or are unaware of other operators that provide a better service.

At the other end of the scale, only around nine per cent are sticking with their current supplier because they are satisfied with the service they receive, according to the firm.

Gordon Rawling, EMEA Marketing Director at Oracle Communications, also noted that the issue should extend beyond just dropped calls, which would have been the main concern several years ago but customers now stand to perhaps become even more frustrated by gaps in data service than by poor call reception.

In order to keep subscribers satisfied, operators must ensure their customer experience strategy addresses the fundamental characteristics of the modern digital lifestyle, where data has surpassed traditional voice and text as the service of choice for today’s consumers, who now value the reliability of their connected devices above else.

“Those companies that can build strong foundations with their customer experience will be able to provide users with a more reliable and flexible data service. The time has come for CSPs to not only ensure they can target subscribers with personalised services, but also to deliver these in a reliable way that aligns with people’s evolving expectations. By outfitting them to enjoy and manage their digital lives with minimal fuss, CSPs can not only regain subscribers’ confidence, but also attract new customers seeking a higher quality of service,” Rawling said.

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