Research Notes

10 reasons why more consumers complain about poor mobile coverage

– whose responsibility is it and how do we fix the problem?
Mobile operators invest 10-15% of their sales budget in upgrading their networks each year. It is ironic, if not discouraging, that consumers increasingly complain at a time when operators have been expanding their networks and technologies like never before.

Strand Consult has followed the market for many years.  Our most recent research note defines the 10 trends in mobile coverage and why consumers complain

1.  Consumers increasingly experience poor mobile coverage. The media writes about it, but blame only operators, not mentioning the complex factors that come into play.

2. Growing smartphone penetration influences mobile coverage. Smartphones themselves create challenges for the network with suboptimal configuration to network, signaling noise, various software bugs, and increased demand for data.

3. As complaints about coverage increase, consumers increasingly believe that nearby mobile masts and towers reduce the value of their property.

4. A growing number of people fear mobile radiation, in spite of definitive scientific studies showing no health concerns.

5. Politicians exploit mobile coverage as a political issue to win favor with their constituents but, offer no constructive support and regulation to improve mast/antenna deployment.

6. It is difficult to get permissions to build mobile masts from many municipalities, so mast deployment is months, if not years, behind schedule.

7. Private landlords and municipalities increasingly charge high, if not usurious, rent for land and buildings on which to erect mobile masts and antennas. Operators are forced to choose either to limit the number of masts or attempt to find alternative locations, quite difficult as masts need to exist in proximate relationship to one another. 

8. The media and consumers fail to distinguish between coverage and capacity.  The problem is not necessarily one of coverage, but one of capacity. 

9. Current legislation is not supportive for new developments that would improve coverage, namely innovative technologies, more frequencies, and small cells.

10. The media and consumers have a simplistic view of the costs and challenges of bringing coverage to remote areas, typically regions with poor people.

The debate on mobile coverage is dominated by an ill-informed attitude that operators in their unwillingness to build more networks are the cause of the problem.  Almost never is there a discussion about the role of smartphones, municipalities, landlords, or regulation.

There is an unfortunate tendency of the press and politicians to think that better mobile coverage is simply a function of an operator’s CAPEX.  In fact, as our research shows, many operators cannot spend their budgeted CAPEX because they fail to get the municipality’s permission to erect the necessary masts.  

Strand Consult’s report How mobile operators can reduce cost for mobile masts and improve mast regulation reviews operators’ challenges.  We suggest that good mobile coverage requires the cooperation of a number of actors, including operators, local government, landlords, regulators, and even national government. Good mobile coverage does not just happen. It requires a community effort.

We also look at the important role of the press to create a constructive and informative debate.  The media has a responsibility to provide valuable facts and perspectives to help consumers create more informed and intelligent opinions.  We suggest that the media themselves need to get a better understanding of the issues, namely the difference between coverage and capacity.

Learn more about trends in mobile coverage, how to address the reasons for increasing consumer complaints about mobile coverage, and how improve the conditions for mast deployment. How mobile operators can reduce cost for mobile masts and improve mast regulation 
More information:

REPORT – How mobile operators can reduce cost for mobile masts and improve mast regulation

WORKSHOP – How mobile operators can reduce cost for mobile masts and improve mast regulation 

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