Research Notes

10 trends of mobile coverage and why consumers complain

Consumers increasingly complain about mobile coverage even when operators are investing in network expansion and technologies more than ever before. Mobile operators invest 10-15% of their sales budget in upgrading their networks each year. In an era when data from mobile networks is exploding, operators need to take concerted steps to reduce one of the key cost drivers on the balance sheet: building and running mobile networks.

Strand Consult has followed the market for mobile networks many years. Here are the 10 trends in mobile coverage and why consumers complain.

1. Consumers increasingly experience poor mobile coverage. The media writes about it, but blames only operators, not mentioning the complex factors that impact mobile coverage.

2. The growing number of smartphones on the network impacts the quality of mobile coverage and what end users experience. Smartphones create challenges for the network with their suboptimal configuration to the network, signalling noise from apps and operations on the phone, 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 that it is not dangerous to health.

5. Politicians exploit mobile coverage as a political issue to win favor with their constituents but offer no constructive support or regulation to improve network development.

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

7. Private landlords and municipalities increasingly charge high, if not usurious, rent for land and buildings where operators erect mobile masts and antennas. This forces operators to choose either to limit the number of masts or to 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 mobile 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 mobile coverage to remote areas.

The debate on mobile coverage is dominated by an ill-informed attitude that operators are unwilling to build more networks. 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.

To receive more information about our report “How mobile operators can reduce cost for mobile masts and improve mast regulation” and how we have helped mobile operators overcome these challenges, contact us.

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