A new generation of mobile phones is arriving as 4G (also called LTE) mobile broadband networks gain ground across the globe, including Hungary. But how much do users perceive of that? How open are they to new devices that allow them to take advantage of the new network speed? The latest research document by eNET-Telekom, titled “Report on the Internet Economy”, looks into 4G mobile Internet networks and upcoming devices from the perspective of consumers.
4G: coverage in focus again
After the required network development and careful user testing, the first commercial 4G/LTE mobile Internet service was launched in early 2012, i.e. it has been available for more than 18 months. The start of this new generation of mobile networks was, in many ways, similar to the “vintage times” 20 years ago, when the 2G service had conquered the country meter by meter. As back then, coverage is once again in focus; where is the new service available, and to what percentage of the population?
Fast Internet on mobile devices, too
A 4G network offers consumers Internet access that is often faster than the local fixed-line service. One important difference from the networks built two decades ago is that this time, the emphasis is on data services. The main advantage of 4G is fast Internet access, anywhere, any time.
The spread of 4G mobile networks is expected to speed up as more affordable 4G-capable phones arrive in Hungary. But for that, people need to know and hear about 4G, and must evaluate its advantages over the well-known and preferred 3G system.
Figure 1: Have you ever heard about the 4G mobile Internet service?
According to a fresh survey conducted by eNET among regular Internet users older than 18 years, almost four fifths (79.3%) of all respondents have heard about the 4G mobile Internet service. However, only one in three people (34.6%) claimed to know exactly what the technical term means.
Europe: it’s beginning!
Naturally, selling LTE-enabled devices does not necessarily lead to faster-spreading 4G services, even though it definitely is an important precondition. Even in Western Europe, a more developed region where many LTE-capable devices are sold, few customers have subscribed to the service so far. One in three new mobile phones sold in Western Europe support LTE, but the technology is just starting to spread amongst users. It should be noted, though, that 4G is not yet available at all Western service providers yet; and where it is available, coverage is mostly limited to large cities.
Experts project that the service will spread faster after the current breakthrough. According to Ericsson vice president Douglas Gilstrap, 60% of the world’s population will have access to LTE services by 2018, while the number of subscriptions will exceed one billion.
Mobile Internet should be cheap, reliable and available everywhere
The expectations of mobile Internet users (who total 43.4% of those surveyed) are clear. Most (29.7%) use the service on their mobile phones; only 12.9% use mobile Internet on their computers (with a data card or mobile stick), and a mere 7.1% use their phones as modems.
Figure 2: Do you use mobile Internet? (More than one option may be chosen)
It is an interesting and important finding that more people (51.9%) browse the Internet on their mobile phones through a WiFi connection than the number of mobile Net users. This indicates that there is more room for increasing the number of mobile Internet users because many WiFi users probably dislike being bound to a WiFi range.
The research also looked into the expectations of people who already use a mobile Internet service.
Figure 3: Mobile Internet features ranked by importance*
* Ratio of respondents who gave the highest score (5) in response to the following question: How important are the following mobile Internet characteristics to you? Where 1 – means “not important at all”, and 5 – means “very important”.
The results indicate that the most important features are the following: a strong price to value ratio; reliability; and extensive availability (coverage).
From smartphones to other gadgets
Mobile Internet has reached everyday objects as it is set to conquer cameras and watches, too. Thus the second part of eNET’s research examines the opinions of today’s consumers about future products. Some of these products are already available and gaining ground (primarily smartphones and TVs, as well as tablet computers), while others exist but are not yet widely spread (such as smart watches and cameras, or intelligent vacuum cleaners). Still others have been invented but are not yet commercially available (Internet-connected glasses and refrigerators, or 3D printers).
We aimed to find out if our respondents have used any of these devices, and whether they would like to try or buy them. Of the 12 devices listed, it was Internet-connected refrigerators, smart watches and intelligent, Internet-connected glasses (such as Google Glass) that divided our respondents the most. There was less disagreement about smart TVs, tablet computers, and GPS-based mobile tracking devices used in cars.
The respondents can be divided into three categories based on their perception of these devices. “Rejectors” (22.9%) do not use the devices and do not want to try them. “Instant getters” (37.8%) are the most open to purchasing the gadgets (apart from smartphones which two thirds of them already own, and Internet-connected refrigerators, which even this group finds alien). Finally, there are the “gadget freaks” who would try almost anything (except items they already use) but would think more before buying them.
Smartphones constitute an interesting rift between the respondents: those who do not own one are more likely to reject other devices, too, and there are fewer mobile Internet users amongst them. With the rest, a mobile phone (along with mobile Internet) is a kind of Trojan horse that may open the way to further gadgets.
eNET – Telekom
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Data source: online panel-based (CAWI) survey with 1,000 participants above 18 years of age, ordered by eNET Internet Research and Consultancy Ltd. and conducted in September 2013. The results are representative of the views of regular Internet users over 18 by sex, age and region.