Mobile broadband usage to grow despite crunch

But is that good or bad news for operators?

But is that good or bad news for operators?

As the great and the good of the mobile world meet at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona this week to discuss, among other topics, 'sustaining growth in challenging times' and 'surviving the economic climate', there is reason to be cheerful about mobile broadband growth at least.

Consumers plan to dramatically ramp up their use of mobile data services over the next two years, according to a survey released today which polled more than 50,000 mobile users in Western Europe and the US.

A large majority (71 per cent) of US consumers anticipate daily use of services such as the mobile internet, while in Europe this level of usage is anticipated by almost half (41 per cent) of respondents, the survey found.

Broadband from A-Z

Click here for all there is on broadband, from fibre to zombies.

When it comes to Blighty, more than half (54 per cent) of UK respondents said they intend to ramp up their usage in the next two years - and more than a third (38 per cent) plan to do so in the next year.

However, such rampant growth of mobile data services could create challenges for mobile operators - to ensure their network infrastructure can cope. According to a recent report by analyst Strand Consults, many European operators are already finding the running costs of mobile broadband are much higher than the revenue generated by them as retail prices are falling.

Of those not currently gobbling mobile data in the UK, more than a quarter (28 per cent) plan to start doing so in the next two years. For this group the most attractive services are: the mobile internet (35 per cent); email and MMS (34 per cent apiece); photo uploading (31 per cent); and software downloads (30 per cent).

And in what operators must consider grim irony, the main factor that would encourage increased usage among this group is lower prices - cited by half (51 per cent) of those polled.

Current UK users of mobile data services do so primarily for convenience (38 per cent) or entertainment (37 per cent), with work trailing behind in third place (19 per cent).

The research also highlights consumer gripes about current mobile broadband services, with cost (i.e. too expensive or unclear), speed, quality and reliability all being cited as complaints.

The survey, which was commissioned by Tellabs and carried out by the Nielsen Company, was conducted in November last year and is based on responses from mobile users in France, Germany, Italy, the Spain, UK and the US.