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Mobile network satisfaction levels decline, survey says

It's a drop from a year ago due to growth in devices and data, while networks struggle to keep up

As smartphones and tablets surge in number, mobile workers are less satisfied with their wireless network services, a new poll from iPass has found.

The new global survey of 1,800 workers at 1,100 companies found a 25 percentage point decline in mobile network satisfaction over a year ago. In 2011, 87% of workers said they were satisfied with their mobile service, but the number dropped to 62% who are satisfied in 2012.

The latest survey was conducted between Jan. 11 and Feb. 3. IPass provides mobile services to companies and operates nearly 700,000 wireless hotspots globally for various partners.

The survey also noted that workers carry an average of 3.5 devices, up from 2.7 devices in 2011. Those devices include at least a laptop, smartphone and tablet . More than 60% of survey respondents said they use a tablet, up from 41% in mid-2011.

The decline in overall user satisfaction with wireless services came from various factors. Satisfaction with network speed declined from 46% in 2011 to 34% in 2012, while data coverage satisfaction dropped from 57% to 50%. Voice quality satisfaction also dropped from 77% to 62%, and voice coverage satisfaction dropped from 73% to 66%.

IPass and other experts attribute the decline in satisfaction levels to an increase in data traffic and devices, while wireless infrastructure in carrier networks has not kept up with demand.

The CTIA reported an 111% increase in wireless network data traffic between June 2010 and June 2011, iPass noted.

Jack Gold, an analyst for J. Gold Associates who works independently from iPass, said the results of the survey are "not all that surprising."

Gold said the higher level of dissatisfaction with cellular networks is compounded by carriers that are limiting data usage and increasing the cost of it.

"As users go to more complex and powerful devices, the impact on the network gets amplified," Gold said. "If you are used to connecting over a fast Wi-Fi connection and suddenly get slower speeds over 3G or less, then that will have an impact. "

Gold noted that the number of mobile devices per worker is on the rise because users are still experimenting and looking for the optimum device that suits their needs. Meanwhile, the cost of devices is low enough that workers are willing to buy more devices and try them out.

Gold also found it interesting that the survey discovered mobile workers are still carrying laptops. "Laptops are not dead yet, nor will they be in the near term," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.


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