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Mobile users suffer while masts are being upgraded to 4G - expert

Friday, July 31st 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Customer satisfaction in mobile networks will go down before it goes up as operators work to improve their infrastructure, an expert has said.

Russell Feldman, director of technology and telecoms at market research firm YouGov, said research has shown that where mobile companies try to improve their coverage and upgrade people to 4G, there is often a dip in customer satisfaction.

But it is worth it in the end, as people are happier once the upgrade is completed, he said.

“You’ve got your masts, when one is out of action you move people on to another mast so there’s more traffic, so everything slows down," he told Cable.co.uk

“And then we typically see when that new mast is in action again, it’s been upgraded to 4G and satisfaction goes up again.

“And that’s related to all networks, it’s not picking on any one in particular, it’s all networks.”

The UK's four major mobile networks have agreed to invest £5bn to improve infrastructure, taking voice and text coverage to 90% of the UK landmass by 2017 and cutting the number of 'not-spots – areas with no mobile coverage.

Giving an overview of the latest trends in the UK mobile market, Mr Feldman said 39% of smartphone owners have a 4G connection now, with satisfaction rates significantly higher for 4G than 3G.

Of the people who own mobiles in the UK, 82% own a smartphone, Mr Feldman said.

YouGov’s research has also found that a third of smartphone tariffs are on pay as you go or SIM-only deals rather than contracts, he said.

'More familiar'

“It could actually be that people are finishing their contract, they are not upgrading because they are perhaps not seeing a great enough iteration of features on the next handset that they would look to get, in which case they go from £35/month to £10/month on a SIM-only rolling contract.”

People’s use of their mobiles is also developing, he said, with more and more people using them for things like online banking.

“If you look at what people did back in March 2012, we’re seeing 33% using their handset for online banking in 2012. In March 2015 it’s increased to 61%.

“And that is, I think, because people are becoming more familiar with the technology, there are more banks coming in, and they are on multi platform, it’s not just iOS.

“I think people are also becoming more confident and more familiar about doing these activities.”

The use of mobiles for social media also increased, but not in the same proportion, going from 70% in March 2012 to 81% in March this year, he said.

Looking at tablet use, Mr Feldman said of the entire population, 55% own a tablet, and 52% of that tablet-owning population have two or more tablets in their household. 20% have three or more.

Giving a possible reason for the need for more than one device per household, he said: “I don’t think parents are buying TVs for their children anymore.

“Now I think parents are basically buying tablets because they are multi-functional, you can watch catch-up TV, you can do gaming. So that’s the driver of this three-plus household for tablets.”

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