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Fickle Quality of Mobile Data Roaming

IRRITATING BUT IMPORTANT

Inbound roaming is a key revenue source for many mobile operators. Data addiction is evident and subscribers would like to use mobile services also abroad. On the other hand, the data roaming fees are commonly considered high among both consumer and business segments. Users not fearing the roaming bill shock tend to have – indeed righteously – high expectations for mobile data customer experience. If it’s pricey, at least it should work! But we all know many times it just doesn’t…

REVEALING THE ROAMING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Omnitele studied the current status of typical business user roaming experience in 9 different countries by reproducing some typical mobile data use cases: email, web browsing and video streaming. All together 16 operators were tested. In order to reflect true end-user experience, commercial off-the-shelf iPhone 5s smartphones were used. Typical benchmark studies focus on countries with high population, but for this study we wanted to analyse the customer experience in selected smaller countries where roaming is more important part of the mobile operator business case.

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THE CHALLENGE OF DEFINING THE TARGETS

Acceptable quality is not a trivial concept to define – the user expectations tend to vary greatly across markets, price plans and segments. For the sake of simplicity, we defined the thresholds based on some typical targets used among our European clientele. The values represent the minimum acceptable point of quality. That is, QoS below the applied target values is likely to result in user frustration and customers seeking for a better service provider. The targets were:

  • 4MB email attachment download: 10s
  • WWW page waiting time: 5s
  • YouTube streaming buffering time: 3s

MODERATE PERFORMANCE OBSERVED

The results show that quality is far from consistent. For www browsing – indeed the most important use case – none of the operators meet the 5 second target in average web page waiting time. All together only 31% of tests (16/48) satisfy the defined customer experience targets (7/16 Email, 9/16 YouTube). Only one of the tested operators supported LTE roaming – yet it was the one scoring the best results considering the consistency over all test cases.

 

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VERDICT: MNOs NOT TRULY CAPITALISING ON ROAMING BUSINESS

Looking at the rather high roaming data prices and the moderate customer experience of many of the tested operators, it is obvious why roamers are keen to rely on WiFi. Omnitele sees that operators are not capitalising on the business opportunity of mobile data roaming very well and actions on both pricing and quality are required.

LTE roaming is clearly one of the potential keys to success. Currently (3Q/14) it is not widely adopted but we expect it to gain more wind under wings going towards 2015.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Mikko Valtonen, Manager, Marketing & Business Development (firstname.lastname@omnitele.com)

Download the report in 1-pager PDF: Fickle-Quality-of-Mobile-Data-Roaming-2