Acision US Study Reveals Quality of Service Issues

New consumer research from YouGov and mobile data specialist Acision sheds new light on the Quality of Experience (QoE) challenges posed to US operators by the delivery of mobile broadband services. The research questioned US consumers about their mobile broadband experience on smartphones, laptops and other mobile handsets.

YouGov questioned a representative sample of 502 mobile broadband users in the US aged 18 and above between 1 – 8 October, 2010. It found that, despite the rising popularity of mobile broadband, 74 per cent had experienced QoE issues. The most encountered problems were slow speeds (60 per cent), poor network coverage (35 per cent), inability to get connected (29 per cent) and connection loss (29 per cent). However, up to 63 per cent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a small fee for services that improve QoE.

The research echoes findings from a similar YouGov/Acision survey conducted in the UK earlier this summer, and, says Acision, reinforces the mobile broadband Quality of Service (QoS) challenges experienced across the globe today. These issues were also spotlighted in the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Performance report released in August, which noted that mobile broadband download speeds experienced by consumers lag advertised speeds, an issue the YouGov/Acision survey identified as one of the principle sources of frustration among mobile subscribers.

“The YouGov/Acision data on the consumer mobile broadband experience comes at a critically important time for the mobile industry, as we witness exponential growth in mobile broadband usage and network congestion problems as a result of this uptake,” says Steven van Zanen, senior vice president marketing, Mobile Broadband, at Acision. “This research offers a valuable perspective on the challenges facing carriers in the US today, providing insights into consumer perceptions on mobile broadband quality of experience, their frustrations with the service and their willingness to accept QoE improvement measures.

According to van Zanen, Acision has identified three areas where carriers can deploy capabilities to address these QoS issues: the adoption of measures that ensure fairness for all; the optimization of data traffic; and the differentiation of mobile broadband services.”

On the issue of fairness policies, the survey found that 76 per cent of respondents were not aware if their carrier had a policy in place – considerably higher than the 56 per cent result in the UK. 65 per cent of those surveyed were unaware that in many networks, just a small number of users generate over 80 per cent of broadband traffic, causing slow download speeds and connection problems. When those surveyed were made aware of the issues surrounding the fair distribution of bandwidth, over half of consumers responded positively to an active approach to fairness, aimed at distributing bandwidth between as many people as possible to ease congestion to benefit all users (63 per cent). Between 30 per cent and 63 per cent of respondents even agreed they would be open to pay a small fee for measures that meant a better broadband service.

The research also confirmed the popularity of video services, with almost half of consumers questioned (49 per cent) accessing data-hungry video sites via their mobile connection. However, in line with this, the research highlighted that of those consumers accessing video services, over three quarters (78 per cent) encountered QoE issues, such as frequent pauses, and as many as 68 per cent experienced these problems on a regular basis.

With so many experiencing video quality of service issues on their mobile devices, the research also indicated that over two thirds of video users (69 per cent) would accept an optimization policy that improves the performance of a video service. For example, consumers were supportive of measures carriers could take to improve the quality of mobile video by decreasing video size to enable uninterrupted playback.

The research also demonstrated the opportunities available to carriers to differentiate their mobile broadband services. Consumers surveyed stated they would be willing to pay a small fee to receive services such as: notifications when they have reached a certain spend limit on their mobile broadband service (48 per cent); fair distribution of bandwidth between consumers (45 per cent);  personalization capabilities (46 per cent); a bundle-sharing plan (46 per cent); and the ability to set spending limits on their mobile broadband account (42 per cent).

“There is a common message we are seeing from the research conducted in both the USA and UK,” says Russell Feldman, associate director at YouGov. “Mobile broadband customers need more communication on the issues affecting their experience with the service. We believe they are capable of recognizing there are problems with the service and are open to creative ways of dealing with them. Data caps are but one tool available to carriers but the research shows that consumers will consider other service differentiators, if given the choice.”