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Consumers demand better treatment from mobile operators

Mobile operators need to work to win back consumer trust ahead of widespread 5G deployment, according to a report from Ericsson

Globally, consumers cannot wait for the introduction of 5G mobile networks, with expectations running high and over 50% expecting to be using 5G-enriched services within two years of commercial launches in their home countries. However, mobile network operators (MNOs) have a lot of work to do to keep their users happy, according to research by Sweden’s Ericsson.

In a newly published report, Towards a 5G consumer future, Ericsson outlined several calls to action that MNOs need to act upon urgently to build a foundation for consumer adoption of 5G beyond 2020, and to retain their customer bases.

Researchers polled 14,000 iPhone and Android smartphone users aged between 15 and 65 in Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US, collectively representing nearly 800 million consumers.

“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 adviser at Ericsson’s Consumer and 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.”

Among the biggest concerns for mobile users are that the telecoms market is too complex for them to navigate, and operators tend to be dishonest in their marketing activities.

Six out of 10 users said they grappled with the complexity of their data plans, and there was considerable misalignment between what people were buying and what they were using. Only 30% were satisfied with how their operator presented information about their plans online, and only 4% trusted their operators’ advertising and network performance statistics.

As 5G roll-outs gather pace, MNOs will need to wean themselves off “baseless marketing slogans” and focus on the reality of the experience, said Ericsson.

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In the 5G future, consumers will no longer count on unlimited data plans, but instead look for what Ericsson calls a “sense of the unlimited”. It said people tended to buy unlimited data plans to guarantee peace of mind, rather than from a desire to use massive amounts of data – it found the average user has 31GB of unused data left over every 12 months.

Ericsson suggested MNOs should look for new ways to offer this sense of freedom for users, such as treating unused data like currency – something to be saved, traded or maybe even gifted to friends and family.

Consumers also have ideas about how they are charged for their devices and plans that may not tally with operator expectations, Ericsson revealed. Operators have emphasised so-called “data buckets” and build their plans on this basis, but faster broadband speeds and fair wireless contracts tend to be considered more important by users.

Respondents to the survey called for operators to end the practice of paying for gigabytes consumed and offer personalised plans that account for services used and number of devices – or things – connected, when charging.

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