2002 has been another terrible year for the telecommunications industry, after 2001, and there is no relief yet in sight. The bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies multiply, capital spending by network operators in developed economies is at a near standstill and there is no clear evidence that anyone knows how to rekindle growth.The reasons are partly historic - overspending, overbuilding, overpricing and over-hyping were all symptoms of the late 1990s - but uncertainty is now the key issue. New investment and new revenue streams will only appear after the presentation of strong business cases and clear visions of how new technology will change and modify behaviour. Very few of these projections appear to be more than wishful thinking.
However, there is some good news as markets which have come late to widespread fixed and mobile telephony continue to build-out network capacity and add new services. And in the developed world there are ways of optimising service design, improving the dialogue with customers and obtaining valuable incremental business.
These themes of uncertainty, opportunities, and the need to gain maximum advantage are central to the 4th ESOMAR Telecommunications Conference, Telecommunications Marketing 2002 - Gathering Pace after Re-Positioning. Our papers come from East and West Europe, North America, Africa and India. They mix, to varying degrees, substantive findings and market perspectives with news of developments in market research technique.
A comparison of the German and Hungarian markets is an informative account of the varying opportunities in each country. Further multi-cultural comparisons are provided by The beginning: The impact of 3G on consumer loyalty, churn and spend at launch which compares and contrasts prospects for new service take-up in Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
Two other papers examine prospects for advanced mobile phone services: Beyond the hype: Managing expectations is a methodological treatment of the way in which a major handset vendor researched potential end-user demand in Europe, Asia and North America; and Mobile internet ? Threat or opportunity? examines the operator perspective as researched in a global study.
Skating on thin ice: The impact of the portal on customer loyalty is a South African case history which compares the impact of a portal and a reward programme on customer loyalty, using statistical modelling techniques.
Methodology is also the theme of Scoring, segmenting and characterising telecom customers on the basis of attitudinal loyalty. The case history studies the customers of an ISP but the technique is likely to have wider application.
Content issues for a portal are the subject of paper from the Czech Republic: Mobile content services from a customer?s point of view. Defining main barriers and motivators of mobile content usage is an account of one?s experience and the results of a quantitative survey.
A specific type of content is the focus of an Indian contribution - What value do customers attach to instant news? - which reports the results of a survey that measured levels of interest in SMS news.
A more general look at portals and websites comes in Providing online customers with an 'extraordinary' customer experience in telecommunications markets reports on developments in techniques for assessing the usability of websites and gives an illustration of how an operator's website was tested and found in need of improvement.
Increasing telecom revenue through mobile centrex in the Norwegian business market is also an investigation of a new service concept, which offers mobile operators additional revenue sources in a market with very high levels of penetration.
A second Norwegian paper also looks at mobile issues. Is the future wireless? Reflections on the Nordic market reviews market developments and tracks the development of a new and increasing important segment: people who have a mobile but not a fixed phone.
This collection of papers illustrates the vital role that market research is and should be making to the planning of a telecommunications industry that is undergoing painful assessment of current and potential revenue sources. The renaissance has not happened yet but the market research industry is patiently contributing to the reduction of risk, to the exploitation of existing opportunities and to the creation of new forms of competitive advantage. Stephen Connell
Conference collection includes the following papers: