Mobile broadband satisfaction in S'pore ranked lowest

Connection and video streaming are among main issues concerning quality of mobile broadband surfing here, while a significant portion of users are willing to pay a premium for improved experience, finds a survey.

Singapore ranks the lowest, alongside the U.K., in terms of Quality of Experience (QoE) in a new mobile broadband usage survey.

Commissioned by Acision, a mobile data service provider, the findings come "as a total surprise", according to Steven van Zanen, senior vice president for marketing. He explained that the city-state was chosen as the only Asian country in a five-nation lineup for the survey, in part for its broadband penetration rate and government Wi-Fi initiatives, such as Wireless@SG.

Other countries that took part in the survey are the U.S., Brazil and Australia.

Among the 1,000 mobile broadband users surveyed in Singapore, 83 percent of users polled faced QoE issues, with 68 percent of respondents indicating slow speeds, 42 percent having problems with network coverage, and 38 percent unable to connect at times.

"Slow speeds were also seen as the reason for subscribers cancelling contracts and switching carriers, with operators potentially facing a churn rate of 31 percent," indicated the press release.

"80 percent of Singaporeans [surveyed] did not know that a small number of users could jam up broadband traffic, thus causing slow connection for the rest," van Zanen said in a press briefing with ZDNet Asia. "Once we clarified this to them, there's actually a high acceptance of fairness, and in fact, demands that operators do something about ensuring good speed connection for all."

Another bugbear of mobile broadband usage is the slow loading time of videos. Of the 45 percent respondents who watched videos regularly when connected to mobile broadband, 80 percent indicated issues such as frequent pausing and waiting.

"This shouldn't be the case at all," van Zanen commented. "Users should be able demand that operators give them the promised speed they purchased." This also relates to survey findings that 43 percent of consumers are willing to pay premium rates for improved QoE, with more than half keen to adopt value-added services (VAS) as part of their mobile broadband plan, he added.

"Operators can speed up video loading speed by compressing videos and photos, and this can be done as VAS and consumers can be charged a premium for this, say, 10 to 20 percent more, for a 40 percent improvement in broadband usage," explained the marketing expert.

Arie Baak, director of product marketing, said research has indicated there is a market for such services. "It's about the operator taking charge of the QoE even though some governments are trying to block broadband providers from doing so."

To give customers a better surfing experience, Acision revealed that operators merely have to put in an average of 20 percent more resources compared with the investment on core and radio network that they had already done. Operators can then set policies on optimizing content, ensuring good traffic flow, and giving consumers the option of purchasing a "gold video" package, which allows them superb surfing experience. But at the same time, they can still offer price-sensitive customers basic speed packages.

"This gives them transparency and visibility in their offerings," van Zanen said. "By separating bandwidth required for video streaming, it gives both groups of consumers good broadband speed. It's a win-win situation for all."

He added that the research will give operators reason to move ahead with segmentation of the mobile broadband market. One European carrier has already indicated its decision to move away from the competition of broadband speed, and instead focus on user experience.

The company also revealed that it is in talks with major operators around the world to push forward the service, including the three mobile broadband providers in the city-state, SingTel, StarHub and M1.