UK: Addicted To Connectivity - Perspectives On The Global Mobile Consumer, 2011

Last Updated: 23 June 2011
Article by Deloitte LLP

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017


Data cited in this report are based on a 15-country survey of mobile phone users around the world. All research has been undertaken via online research. Fieldwork took place in January and February 2011. In all, 30,454 responses were included in the study.

In France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, samples are nationally representative and based on interviews with 2,000 respondents or more. In Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Turkey, the online research approach employed results in a high concentration of urban professionals. These are likely to be relatively high earners within their country. All samples in these countries were 2,000 or more except for Turkey for which the target sample was 1,000 respondents.

The questions for this survey were written by Deloitte member firms, with inputs from the wider mobile telecommunications industry (industry associations, operators, handset vendors, infrastructure manufacturers, regulatory authorities, investment banks, industry analysts) and YouGov, which managed the multinational online research program.

The question set for this survey was standard across all countries, except where information about the local market was specifically requested. For example in India we asked specific additional questions about characteristics specific to their market, such as the adoption of dual SIM handsets. Questions were asked in a local official language in all countries.

Questions pertaining to spend were all asked in local currency. Price ranges were tailored to local purchasing power where appropriate.


Every year, mobile communications becomes ever more integral to our lives: the global mobile network remains the world's most powerful and most pervasive social network with over 5 billion connections and counting. Every year, the ways in which each of us uses mobile telephony evolves; the types of mobile usage grow more varied and stratified. For a growing group of users, mobile communication is now predominantly text, image and video based. But there will always be a significant proportion of the user base that does little but talk over mobile.

An ever-widening, ever more specialized array of mobile devices is emerging, tailored to the diverging ways we are applying cellular mobile technology. In tandem, the mobile network now comprises a steadily growing array of standards such that today's "mobile operator" may be built on up to 10 different cellular network technologies.

In short, usage of mobile is getting more specific, sophisticated and complex, making it the perfect moment to launch a comprehensive survey of mobile usage around the globe.

Deloitte has undertaken a survey of 30,454 users of mobile telephony in 15 countries across five continents. The survey's scope ranges from quantifying ownership of multiple mobile-enabled devices to a ranking of the most popular mobile Internet applications.

The survey also includes a focus on forthcoming revenue streams, such as next generation mobile broadband services, mobile advertising and embedded mobile.

This brief report provides an initial snap shot of some of the insights that the survey has revealed, looking at results from individual countries and from all countries surveyed. We will be releasing further analyses of the data over the coming months. These analyses will be available at

We would like to thank the many industry friends who gave generously of their insight to help us draft the questions and analyze the responses to this survey.

We hope you find these initial insights from the Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer survey useful and we would welcome further conversations based on the full data sets.

Jolyon Barker
Managing Director
Global Technology, Media & Telecommunications
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

Philip Asmundson
Managing Director
Telecommunications Global Leader
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

Chris Williams
Deloitte LLP, United Kingdom

Scatter cushion connectivity

Five decades back some were of the view that there was only a market for five computers in the world. Deloitte's current thinking is that it is quite feasible for an individual to own five computers. Indeed, on a typical evening, many millions of living rooms around the world now likely boast more computers than cushions.

The era of scatter cushion computing is upon us and the smartphone is a key driver of this.

A similar proliferation is happening in the world of cellular mobile. For several years, it has been common for an individual to have two mobile phones: this is the principal factor for national penetration rates reaching so far in excess of 100 percent.

The accumulation of mobile devices has not stopped at just two phones. Indeed, anecdotally many of us will know of people who run two smart phones, one for e-mail and the other for browsing.

Add to this a tablet computer, a lap top computer with integrated cellular mobile, a car with built-in cellular mobile and a back up voice phone for good measure, and an individual could justifiably be running eight mobile devices.

Already the majority of mobile phone owners in three of the markets we researched, the United States, South Korea and the United Kingdom, own more than one phone; over ten percent have three phones, and over five percent have four phones in the United States and South Korea. Those claiming to own more than ten phones are unlikely to be using all these devices and in some cases may be accumulating, rather than disposing of, recently retired phones.

In a year's time, when we run the survey again we would expect the average number of mobile phones owned to have risen further. And the notion of a single mobile device that addresses all our needs becomes less and less likely.

Bottom line

The implication of this trend for operators is, overall, positive; there is still plenty of potential in addressing the needs of existing subscribers with just the one mobile device. Therefore while growth in the breadth of the mobile customer base may slow, there is scope for significantly more depth.

As the number of devices per customer grows, the metrics used to measure customer value should adjust accordingly. Focusing on average revenue per user (ARPU) means little in a market if the definition of a "user" is often in reality a subscription, rather than a consumer with multiple subscriber identity modules (SIMs) and numerous mobile devices.

One challenge is likely to lie in how to manage the proliferation of devices. Should all devices, the replacement cycles for which are likely to differ, be on the same bill? Should operators offer a single bucket of connectivity, comprising voice, data and text, which can be used by each and every individual's cellular mobile devices? If the answer is yes, how does this impact device subsidies by carriers on multiple handsets?

Operators also need to consider which networks are best placed, from technical and economic perspectives, to support each type of connected device. One of the fastest growing forms of computer is the tablet computer, one of whose strengths is video. Tablet owners are likely to be heavy data users, but it may be difficult to accommodate many tablet owners' video streaming requests over a cellular mobile network. A growing volume of video usage across a number of devices should prompt operators to consider how best to deliver such data. In some markets, fast growth in video consumption is likely to make Wi-Fi an increasingly strategic part of the connectivity provided by a mobile operator.

As an individual's mobile devices in active usage proliferates, the likelihood is of some commonality in data stored – ranging from e-mail addresses to MP3 tracks to videos – across all devices. As the volume of this common data rises, one of the questions likely to arise is how best, from a network perspective, to update this data across all networks. Should all updating be via a cellular network – or could devices talk to each other directly? Sharing e-mail addresses is a relatively weightless task; but sharing video files across multiple devices could start having a noticeable impact on network performance.

As devices become more specialized, operators' technical support may need to evolve to address diversifying needs. Operators should consider at what point support becomes a premium service rather than a standard, inclusive element of a standard service package. The industry should also consider the extent to which service could become a key driver of revenue and margin growth.

There will be a need not just to advise on which device (or devices) to purchase, but also to assist in getting them to work, and thereafter to interconnect.

Next generation mobile data: identifying a price worth paying for

Mobile broadband has undergone quite a rollercoaster ride in recent years. When first launched, on the back of the first iteration of 3G networks, mobile broadband was typically considered a network of last resort. At 384 Kbit/s and, typically, a premium price per MB downloaded, mobile broadband was what you used if no other connectivity was available and you just had to send that e-mail or download a vital file.

But then mobile broadband evolved rapidly. It started offering multi-megabit download speeds; price dropped to the point where it was competitive with some fixed line broadband packages and all-you-can-eat became the default.

Mobile broadband soon entered the mainstream. Mobile broadband's ensuing popularity prompted two reactions: firstly, the reintroduction of usage-based pricing and secondly an increased focus on next generation networks that can offer faster download speeds based on greater spectral efficiency.

New networks mean new investment, which in turn requires new business plans, a key input for which is forecast revenue.

Pricing a new faster service correctly is a major challenge – and opportunity for the sector. Of all current mobile broadband customers surveyed, the two factors most likely to encourage greater use of mobile broadband were lower prices and faster speeds, cited by 54 percent and 50 percent of this group respectively (see Figure 2)1.

Deloitte's research included a van Westerndorp price sensitivity meter analysis designed to identify the range of prices respondents would consider acceptable to pay for a next generation mobile broadband service, which was described as2:

"a mobile data service which provided you with very fast mobile broadband speeds (100 Mbit/s), fast enough to download a 30 minute television program in 2 minutes, and 30GB of downloads per month (enough for 30 films or 6,000 songs)".

Respondents were asked a sequence of four questions about the pricing of the hypothetical product:

  • At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn't be very good?
  • At what price would you consider the product starting to get expensive, so that it is not out of the question, but you would have to give some thought to buying it?
  • At what price would you consider the product to be a bargain—a great buy for the money?
  • At what price would you consider the product to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it?

Figure 3 shows the result of this analysis for four countries in Western Europe: France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom3.. In these markets, the acceptable range of prices for the service was between the point of marginal cheapness (PMC), at just under $40 and the point of marginal expensiveness (PME), at a little over $55 per month. At the PMC, price would be approaching the point at which respondents considered the service too cheap to be viable. The PME is the point at which respondents would lose interest on grounds of cost.

The sweet spot – what van Westerndorp called the "Optimum Price Point" – would be just under $50.

Bottom line

Deloitte's view is that the results from this analysis can be considered in several ways.

One interpretation is that respondents answered the question to the word: the acceptable range of prices given was for a premium data-only service that was exclusive of any allocation of text messages, voice calls, Wi-Fi and a handset. This would suggest users are prepared to pay a premium to current monthly prices, albeit at a lower price per gigabyte than is currently charged.

Those interpreting the question literally may include current "power users" of mobile broadband who are using current mobile broadband technology to the limits of its ability and would be pleased to pay more for a superior service.

A second interpretation is that respondents assumed that the price was for a bundle that offered much faster download speeds and lots of data as well as a bundle of voice, texts, Wi-Fi and a payment towards a smartphone. If this is the case, it could be that respondents have a set price in mind for their mobile spend and are not willing to exceed this, even for what is likely to be a significantly improved service relative to their current mobile package.

Some of those unwilling to pay more for service may simply not value any greater speeds or larger download limits as current provision satisfies (or even exceeds) current needs. Mobile Internet users that want to do little more than send e-mail or read news headlines via their mobile phone are likely to fall into this category. Or it may be the case that a faster service is hard to value due to a lack of devices which can connect with it as well as a lack of specificity as to how consumers will use faster speeds and greater broadband utilization.

Operators should bear in mind that not every user may want a service that is class-leading technologically but is less impressive in other respects. Focusing on customer support, for example, may be a better focus to have: according to our respondents, the second most common reason for changing operator was to access better "customer services/technical support" relative to the former network.

Carriers could also consider that some of their target customers may not be able to value a product that is defined by download speeds and gigabytes even if the latter is converted into units that they are more familiar with.

Next generation mobile networks are likely to be a major opportunity for mobile operators. But the evolution to needing, or comprehending the benefit of, faster networks, is not going to happen at a uniform pace for all customers. Leading edge users of mobile technology may sometimes be those generating the highest revenues per month, but laggards content with 2G voice services, may be equally profitable.


1 Total sample 3,881 respondents from 14 countries (India had no mobile broadband services at the time the research was undertaken).

2 For more information on this type of analysis, see:

3 Van Westerndorp analyses are available for all other study countries.

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