The customer experience from mobile services is shaped by many forces and parameters. Some of them bring us closer to the ultimate mobile experience we all wish to have; while others cap our experience, cause frustration and lead to churn.
The main parameters that drive or limit our customer experience are content, end-devices, tariffs and network capabilities.
Content availability or the lack thereof is what it’s all about. The never-ending pursuit for content consumption, and more recently content creation (even more than consumption), is one of the key drivers for mobile customer experience.
The more content you have at your fingertips – whether it’s the latest Netflix drama or your friend’s live Facebook stream (check out some Facebook live statistics in this MediaKix post) – and the more content you can create and share at any given moment and from any given location, the happier a customer you are.
But content availability is not the entire story. Content creation and consumption are heavily dependent on your end device. Each new smartphone generation enables mobile users to create heavier content with higher resolution (for example, UHD capable video cams) and to consume more types of content (with more storage, more applications and more processing power and networking capabilities).
For this reason, end devices and more specifically, the prompt upgrade cycle of end devices (approximately 30 months on average according to this Business Insider article) are also a key factor that drives customer experience.
If we look back to just a few years ago, to the old ages of 2G and 3G networks, content availability and end-device capabilities were not a driver of customer experience but rather a set-back for it. The availability of media-rich content (mainly multimedia) has only become common in the mobile realm with the introduction of 4G. Moreover, end devices that are capable to create, consume and communicate such rich content have only been around since smartphones were widely introduced.
So now that we have great content and fabulous end devices, what limits us from achieving the absolute mobile experience?
First – our budget. In this age of bandwidth-intense applications, we often reach the monthly limit of our data plan. In such scenarios, we have access to all of the favorable parameters but we cannot really enjoy the service as we are limited in our usage of network resources.
The obvious solution, which is being widely adopted in the US this year, is the “unlimited data-plan” offering. Such offerings enable us to enjoy the ultimate mobile experience without factors such as content availability, end device capabilities or budget limits getting in our way (see this Business Insider review of unlimited data plans in the US). But is this it? Will unlimited plans provide the best mobile experience we can hope for?
This is where the fourth parameter – network capabilities – comes into the picture.
When moving to unlimited plans, no external mechanism limits the capacity hunger of mobile users, and the large-scale implementation of such plans often highlights the bottlenecks in mobile network infrastructures. These bottlenecks can include a lack of access spectrum or access sites, insufficient backhaul resources or even limited resources at the mobile core. But no matter what the cause, any bottleneck will result in frustrated customers and churn – which is the total opposite of mobile operators’ intention when offering unlimited data plans to their customers.
This leads to the conclusion that the only REAL solution for a limitless mobile customer experience lies in 5G networks, which promise a slew of new capabilities and resources that can tackle any possible peak of capacity demand.
This does not, however, mean that operators should wait for 5G to offer unlimited data plans. In fact, solutions are already available in today’s 4G and 4.5G networks and involve the careful design and engineering of each part of the network – access, backhaul and core – before announcing unlimited-for-all services to customers.