As more consumers rely on mobile devices to pay for goods and services, watch videos and operate their intelligent homes, mobile providers must expand digital offerings and maintain high-performing networks to attract and keep customers, according to Accenture’s Mobile Web Watch 2013 survey.

Accenture surveyed nearly 31 000 consumers in 26 countries to understand what communications service providers (CSPs) must do to address their well-connected-consumers’ desire for immediacy and increased control of their digital communication and entertainment options.

The global survey found that the speed of mobile Internet connections was most often cited by all consumers as the top CSP differentiator.
Ninety-seven percent of all respondents cited speed as important, and 78% say there is some room for improvement. In addition, nearly two-thirds (63%) of all respondents say they would pay additional monthly fees for mobile Internet service that would be 10 times faster than their current connection, indicating that providers’ investments in high-speed data networks, such as 4G, could reap benefits.

However, there are disparities in consumers’ willingness to pay for more speed. For example, in mature markets, the willingness to pay extra for 4G is lower (57% of all respondents in these markets), except in Italy (71%) and Finland (70%) In emerging markets, three-quarters (76%) of mobile Internet users would pay more for 4G; customers in Brazil and Russia (83% in each country) are willing to pay more.

In addition to the topic of transmission speeds, the survey also showed that providers must deliver an outstanding quality of service to satisfy customers. Almost all respondents (96%) say the quality of network is important, closely followed by its area of coverage (95%) and connection speed (95%).

More surprisingly, 94% of respondents say the cost of data is slightly less important than quality, coverage, or connection speed, and even less, 89%, cited customer service as being important.

“Mobility is not only driving convergence, but it is also accelerating consumers’ appetites for a high-quality, seamless experience on their mobile devices,” says De Wet Bisschoff, senior managing executive: communications, media and technology (CMT) at Accenture South Africa.
“These days, every business is a digital business, and consumers are looking for the kinds of personal relationships that were typical years ago, between shoppers and their neighbourhood store. To stay in the game, providers must deliver the variety of services consumers and businesses want — on fast, reliable, secure networks – or they will struggle to keep up with competitors at every turn.”

The survey reveals that providers will continue to compete for customer loyalty, particularly from “non-traditional” competitors that include device manufacturers and financial institutions.
When asked who they prefer to supply their “packaged” communications bundles encompassing audio and video calls, messaging, e-mails, and access to applications on their mobile devices, 31% of all consumers surveyed – and 42% in emerging markets – say they would turn to device manufacturers for all their communications needs.

Consumers surveyed in both mature and emerging markets were asked who they would choose as a provider if mobile payments were as widely accepted as credit cards. With this caveat in mind, more than half (56%) of those surveyed would switch to a provider that offered mobile payments if their current carrier did not.

When consumers were asked to consider their top choices for mobile payments providers, banks scored the highest (89%), followed by payment card providers (81%) and mobile providers (77%).

Depending on the market, some customers are more flexible in their choice of mobile payments provider, the survey showed. In emerging markets 79% of those surveyed, versus 70% of customers in mature markets,
would choose mobile network operators for mobile payments services.

Mobile device manufacturers were chosen by 69% of consumers in emerging markets, compared with 54% in mature markets, followed by web portals (68% emerging markets, and 46% mature markets) and social networks (64% emerging markets/41% mature markets).

For cloud services, almost half (46%) of all respondents – and 54% in emerging markets – would want their mobile provider to offer cloud-based capabilities. The survey showed that location-based services are also rising in importance with customers.

Among those consumers surveyed who have access to the Internet via a smartphone or tablet, 72% would disclose their location on their mobile device. Nearly half would do so when searching for information on nearby shops or similar facilities, and 35% would disclose their location for discounts or coupons from retailers in their local area.

Asked about using their smartphones to make phone calls over the Internet, 32% of all smartphone users in both mature and emerging markets regularly use their smartphones to make Internet-based calls.
However, 39% of those surveyed in emerging markets regularly do so, especially among those who own Apple iPhones (44% globally) and those already on 4G networks (41% globally).

In addition, if network connection speed and quality improves, almost half (47%) of all respondents say they would use their mobile phone to make Internet calls, with 60% in emerging markets as the most likely.

“There are certainly challenges for providers, especially in the face of technology developments – including mobility, analytics, cloud, digital services, and social networks — that are accelerating convergence.
“As a disruptive force, convergence is a threat to the unprepared, but CSPs can compete by assuring quality of service as they address customers’ demands, manage new traffic patterns or reconsider the structure of data plans,” says Bisschoff.

“There are also potential opportunities in mobile payment services — perhaps by collaborating with financial institutions. CSPs can also consider cloud-based and location-based services, using tools like analytics to help ensure deep insight into subscribers’ behaviour, which will help CSPs deliver an innovative, consistent digital experience to their customers.”