Mobile sector moves on up

Ownership and use of mobile phones Exclusive research conducted for Marketing Week by NOP reveals that 13 per cent of all adults aged over 15 have a mobile phone solely or mainly for their use, although it may actually be owned by their employ

Ownership and use of mobile phones

Exclusive research conducted for Marketing Week by NOP reveals that 13 per cent of all adults aged over 15 have a mobile phone solely or mainly for their use, although it may actually be owned by their employer. Nine per cent occasionally use a mobile owned by someone they live with; ten per cent live in a household with a mobile phone, although they do not use it. Overall, just under a third of UK adults live in a household with a mobile phone, and nearly a quarter have some experience of, and access to, the network.

However, ownership – particularly main as opposed to occasional – is still concentrated among a relatively limited group of customers, and judging from their characteristics, it would appear to be linked to business rather than social use. Professionals make up nearly two-thirds of all main users and just over half of occasional users, although they represent only 45 per cent of the population. Main ownership is particularly high among ABs: nearly a quarter have a mobile phone, twice as many as among the C2DEs.

Six out of ten main users are men, although there are twice as many female occasional users as are male occasional users. One in five women who work full time have their own mobile phone, emphasising the business link with usage.

Ownership peaks among 35- to 54-year-olds, who make up half of all main users and a third of occasional users. The level is lowest among over-55-year-olds. The youngest age group, the under-25s, has the next lowest main ownership: nine per cent. But they are more likely than other age groups to be users of other people’s phones. Unlike the older age group, in theory they may be converts to the mobile phone culture, and therefore, are more likely to acquire their own phones when their finances permit.

Access is highest in the South, reflecting the initial launch and coverage of the networks. Thirty-eight per cent of southern adults live in households with a mobile phone, compared with 31 per cent in the Midlands and 23 per cent in the North. Forty-five per cent of all main users come from the southern third of Britain.

Acquisition of mobile phones

The market continues to grow, although at a slightly lower rate than in l995. Twenty-eight per cent of users got their first mobile phone within the past 12 months, compared with 35 per cent the year before. The remaining 35 per cent have had a mobile for over two years. Women have been catching up with men and now constitute two-thirds of last year’s new owners, and three-quarters of those acquiring mobile phones in the past three months. Growth is spread across age groups, but is still much higher in the South. A third of all new users come from the junior executive – C1 – class.

The number of people claiming to be very or quite likely to get a mobile phone in the next year is almost exactly the same as acquired one last year, slightly fewer than the preceding year. This means that the market is adding a similar number of users each year, but that the rate of growth is actually declining.

Twelve per cent of under-25-year-olds believe they will get a mobile phone within the next year, more than any other age group, though growth among the 35 to 54s will maintain their position as the dominant age group. Forty per cent of prospective owners come from the South, and 37 per cent from ABCls, so there is no indication of a significant widening in the demographic profile.

Spontaneous advertising awareness

Six out of ten adults remembered advertising for at least one mobile handset or network in the past month, rising to eight out of ten users and potential owners. Orange heads the league with 39 per cent recall, followed by Cellnet with 24 per cent, One2One with 14 per cent and Vodafone with 12 per cent. None of the other ten advertisers scored over eight per cent.

Awareness is generally in line with ownership, peaking among ABs, men and in the South, although l5- to 24-year-olds have the highest recall. Youth bias is particularly strong for Orange and Cellnet, and there is a southern bias for One2One.

Network and handset providers

Ten per cent of users could not identify their network provider, perhaps because their employer pays the bill centrally. Thirty-two per cent named Cellnet and 29 per cent Vodafone. Orange – in contrast to its advertising awareness – and One2One achieved 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. The handset market is also split between two major players, Nokia with 25 per cent and Motorola with 22 per cent. Eleven other manufacturers were named, but only four – BT, Ericsson, NEC and Orange – were owned by over three per cent of users.

Satisfaction with mobile phones

Most users express considerable satisfaction with their handsets and with the network they are connected to.

The vast majority – 86 per cent – were satisfied with their net work provider and slightly fewer found the network coverage “very satisfactory”. Attitudes to the network do not vary greatly by region, although there is stronger discontent about coverage in the Midlands.

The tariffs, which have been the focus of criticism, do not seem to confuse or disappoint most users. Nineteen per cent of users found the different tariffs very confusing. Slightly more found calls more expensive than they expected.

People who have had a mobile for over a year are three times more likely than new owners to feel the tariffs are confusing, to find flaws in the network coverage, and, therefore, be dissatisfied with the network provider.

New users, having chosen their tariff more recently, could have a clearer understanding of the deal, and they may be benefiting from recent tariff reforms, particularly on digital phones. But double the amount of experienced owners strongly feel that they “would be lost without their mobile phone” than new owners do. It may be also be that expectations – and so disappointment – rise with dependency.

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