Category Archives: Blog

Why is there a best before date on mobile data?

Fresh milk and mobile data seem to share the same bacteria problem. Even if treated carefully, it eventually goes sour. To protect consumers from a possibly unpleasant experience, dairy producers put a best before date on milk cartons. Mobile operators go further – they revoke unused mobile data before those gigabytes have become a health hazard.

But consumers have started to question if unused data really is unhealthy and deserve a similar down-the-drain treatment as sour milk. Clever mobile operators realised that they can offer rollover data. One of the pioneers globally is New Zealand’s 2degrees. In this video they ask what is happening to all that leftover data.

So is this just another plug on rollover? It’s hardly new – we wrote about in already in January 2015. No, it’s not about rollover. Because even though rollover is a good thing, operators are still limiting it:

  • Saved data is voided after 1 month (as with e.g. Virgin Media)
  • Saved data is voided after 1 year (as with e.g. 2degrees)
  • You can save a maximum of 100 GB in your account (as with e.g. Telia, Hallon and Vimla in Sweden)
  • You can save 3x the monthly allowance (as with ‘3’ in Austria)
  • You can save as much as the monthly allowance (as with e.g. all Norwegian operators)

Let’s be clear: All of these implementations are of course still much better than no rollover at all – which is the case for a majority of operators worldwide.

But the business model is still to take something away that customers have bought – and sell it back.

Add-on data is often treated worse than regular data – albeit more pricey. If you run out of data a certain month, operators offer you to buy additional data – often at a premium compared to how much you paid for the data in your regular allowance. Whereas operators are broadcasting their pricing of regular plans, the information around add-ons is often well hidden.

But in many cases – UK’s Tesco Mobile and the two Swedish operators ‘3‘ and Telenor are some examples – add-on data expires at the same time as your monthly allowance, i.e. in less than a month. Let’s say your billing month ends the 25th. The day before, the 24th, you get an SMS stating that you’ve now run out of data. As you can’t imagine a life without it, you buy 1 GB of add-on data for 9.9 EUR. You actually just use 0.3 GB of that data but the remaining 0.7 GB is voided the day after, the 25th.

Some operators treat add-on data better: O2 and ‘3’ in the UK let it live for 30 days, Telia in Sweden for 31 days and Tele2 in Sweden for 6 months.

But even premium add-on data is eventually voided.

So also with add-on data, the business model is to take something away that customers have bought – and sell it back.

A vast majority of consumers – 76% to be exact – want their unused mobile data not to expire and instead roll over. This is shown in fresh research from Ericsson ConsumerLab.

But many operators have painted themselves into a corner as they have super-sized their mobile data buckets – relying on that the unused data anyhow is voided by the end of the month. France is a good example of the imbalance between buckets and consumption: The average French non-M2M SIM uses about 2.5 GB of mobile data in a month. But a 20 EUR per month plan in France comes with a bucket of 20 to 100 GB.

If the French operator Free – that offers 100 GB of mobile data on a stand-alone plan for 19.99 EUR per month – would allow customers to save unused data, their average 19.99 EUR customer (who consumed 8.4 GB of data per month by the end of 2017) would accumulate more than 1000 GB of unused data in a year. Yes, one terabyte.

This gives us one key to understand why unlimited mobile data suddenly has become popular among operators.

By leaving the bucket plan, operators that have painted themselves into the bucket inflation corner can jump out of it. Unlimited operators aren’t selling gigabytes. Therefore they do not need to get involved in the questionable practice of revoking unused gigabytes. They don’t risk having to refund unused data as e.g. Google’s Project Fi and UK’s Smarty (picture below) do.

Unlimited customers consume the data they consume and will no longer think about best before dates. It’s a relief for everybody.

The future lies in monetising customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, not in monetising gigabytes.

The world’s best 4G LTE isn’t getting faster

OpenSignal, the company that crowdsources mobile speed and availability experiences from smartphone users worldwide, released its latest State of LTE report today.

It is based on 59 billion measurements and shows that 4G LTE speeds in the fastest countries are in a holding pattern where they don’t increase. The availability of 4G LTE is still improving though, and five countries have now joined the 90% of time club. Three months ago, that club only had two members.

Continue reading The world’s best 4G LTE isn’t getting faster

The secret behind Elisa’s financials

The Finnish-Estonian operator Elisa just published its 4Q 2017 results. And it was a new record in revenue and profitability.

How is that even possible? Readers of our public analysis of mobile data usage know that Finland is the mobile data usage powerhouse of the world – and that Elisa is no exception.

But Elisa doesn’t charge per gigabyte – so where is the revenue growth coming from? How can the company make more profit when it needs to handle all that traffic? This blog reveals their secret. Continue reading The secret behind Elisa’s financials

Six calls to action – directly from consumers

Ericsson ConsumerLab today published a new consumer and industry insight report titled Towards a 5G consumer future.

The research insights are based on a survey of 14000 Android and iOS smartphone users between 15 and 65 in fourteen countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US.

To prepare this consumer research, we worked with Ericsson ConsumerLab to analyse and benchmark the mobile data strategies of operators globally. When we had the research results, we jointly reviewed them.

The findings can be summarised in six calls to action – from consumers for operators: Continue reading Six calls to action – directly from consumers

Who has the best network in the Nordics?

There are several ways to measure network performance and the results of published tests can therefore differ.

Mobile operators have a tendency to criticise test results when they have lost and promote results when they have won.

An example of this is the recent drivetest by Connect Magazine in Switzerland as performed by P3 Group. Whereas Salt seems furious – the CEO-commented release is an interesting read – Sunrise uses the results in its marketing.

Who will be the first operator – anywhere – to complain about a test methodology after having won?

What differs even more than the network test results is the perception of network quality. For an operator it is much more important that its customers are having the perception of the best network than actually having the best network. Continue reading Who has the best network in the Nordics?

Seven undaunted predictions for 2018

Our nine predictions for 2016 were designed to be measurable. The outcome wasn’t bad. Consequently, inspired by Apple’s self-proclaimed ‘courage’ to remove the headphone jack on the then-new iPhone 7, we upped our game when publishing our eight (courageous) predictions for 2017.

We didn’t think it would play out as well as it did. We predicted that Verizon would dump bucket plans and go all-in on unlimited. It happened. Verizon doesn’t call its unlimited plan “Kick the bucket”, but still. We predicted that the “control & zero-rate content” bundle would fail in the light of unlimited and the clouds have never been darker for AT&T with regards to its thirteen-months-have-elapsed-but-yet-to-be-approved attempt to take control over Time Warner. We also predicted that BT and Deutsche Telekom would eat crow and admit that their copper-embracing access strategy wasn’t future-proof just to realise that they now need to speed up to meet the demand for FTTH – or be run over by competition.

We weren’t right on everything – Vodafone didn’t pause 5G plans to focus on unlicensed spectrum; the company just asked the industry to sober up – but we are nevertheless so encouraged that we for 2018 present seven undaunted predictions:

Continue reading Seven undaunted predictions for 2018

Carriers moved away from subsidizing handsets. Now they subsidize customers’ video consumption.

Mobile operators are abandoning the previously predominant model to subsidize handsets and to, in return, lock customers in on long contracts with elevated service fees.

The death of the model should be mourned by no one since end-users have been given choice and flexibility through a multitude of non-binding, cheaper and flexible service options with generous – or even unlimited – allowances. Operators have seen customer churn decrease as end-users hold onto their handsets longer. As a direct consequence, EBITDA margins have increased.

Investors might still complain about the revenue growth, but measured as percentage of revenue mobile carriers currently produce the best margins on record. Continue reading Carriers moved away from subsidizing handsets. Now they subsidize customers’ video consumption.

Fast networks, light payload

Ookla, the company behind Speedtest, has just published its Speedtest Global Index for August 2017. As always, it’s interesting.

According to Ookla’s crowdsourced data, the fastest average mobile data experiences in the world are found in:

  1. Norway – 55.72 Mbit/s
  2. Netherlands – 48.30 Mbit/s
  3. Hungary – 46.72 Mbit/s
  4. Singapore – 46.62 Mbit/s

But since all mobile networks are based on shared capacity, we decided to cross correlate Ookla’s speed data with our own mobile data usage data. Is there – or is there not – a relationship between mobile data usage and experienced speed?

The graph below correlates the two (click to enlarge).

Continue reading Fast networks, light payload

Bundles and churn: Nexterday North 2017

Also the 2017 version of Nexterday North was a true ‘anti-seminar’ with futuristic and insightful speakers in a great, sometimes quirky, mix. May Comptel‘s spirit thrive also now that it is a part of Nokia.

This year, tefficient held a keynote presentation focused on bundles and the effect on churn.

Continue reading Bundles and churn: Nexterday North 2017

Apple Watch 3 Cellular, how much data does it eat?

It’s here. I’ve been salivating after the latest Apple Watch 3, with all the bells and whistles. Slick, beautiful, cool and I’ll only need a watch to make/receive calls and text, stream music, etc. This should be easy, I’ll just pre-order the GPS & Cellular version. I’m a UK consumer and have a passion for all things mobile & telco, both home and abroad. Therefore, I decided to find out how Apple Watch 3 offers compare in the UK, USA and Australia. Continue reading Apple Watch 3 Cellular, how much data does it eat?