Messaging tops Olympic smartphone usage

London Olympic Games were eagerly expected by the telecom sector, it would be the first Olympic Games held after 3G networks matured worldwide and the popularization of smartphones and tablets.

In many developed countries smartphone penetration is reaching 50%, and from now on, any hosting country or city of big global events will need to plan its mobile networks for the surge in voice and data traffic.

Huawei has commissioned Informa to run a consumer survey in London during the Olympic Games, to understand visitors’ mobile services usage and overall satisfaction during the event. The sample size was 889 interviews, split in 4 groups:

1- Londoners not attending Olympic Games
2- Londoners attending Olympic Games
3- UK residents attending Olympic Games, and
4- Non-UK residents attending the Olympic Games
Groups 1, 2 and 3 had around 20% of total interviews, while group 4 had 40% of total responses.
Even though it was not possible to access the Olympic venues, the interviews were done in the vicinities of the most important areas, these areas were:

1- Olympic Park
2- Excel Arena
3- Wembley Stadium
4- Victoria Station
5- Earls Court
Survey Results

One of the most striking findings from the survey is the prevalence of smartphones among all four groups surveyed, from 73% to 85% of respondents in each group stated that they use a smartphone. The most “connected” group are the non-UK visitors, not only they have the highest smartphone penetration rate, 85%, but also the highest tablet ownership, 17%, and the lowest non-smartphone penetration rate, 17%.

Interestingly, when asked about their usage behaviour during the Games, a high percentage of respondents answered that they did not change their behaviour when compared with their usual usage in their place of residence. The services that were most mentioned as being used more were sending text/picture messages, browsing internet and searching local information, but no more than 36% of respondents declared having used them more than at home. Also, it is worth to note that data-hungry services, like VOIP, watching TV/Videos and uploading pictures to websites were not used by a sizable number of interviewees, 33% in the first case, 38% in the second and 41% in the last case.

These figures do not change the fact that more people with mobile data-enabled devices were attending London Olympics than in any other Olympics, so, even if many people did not change its behaviour while in London, on the aggregate it makes up huge data traffic.

Home country operators had limited options to increase revenues with its customers visiting London. Free Wi-Fi was the most popular option to connect to internet, and acquiring a roaming package with home operator was the least mentioned option, even though - or maybe because - 52% of non-UK visitors had researched the cost of roaming in UK. After Wi-Fi, the second most popular option was the acquisition of a UK SIM card, 47% of respondents declared having acquired one.

Another question covered expectations regarding cost of phone bills, and the most concerned group was non-UK visitors - 52% of them showed concerns about running up a large phone bill during the Games, all other groups, UK based and London based, had around 74% of respondents not concerned about it, from this can be inferred that Britons are well informed about mobile phone costs.

Customer experience was very positive in London, it is possible to affirm that operators and the Olympic Committee have done a good job preparing the Olympic Park and the city of London for the increase in traffic during the two weeks of the event. Around 72% of respondents declared to have always being able to connect to the internet, moreover, no less than 85% of respondents declared that mobile networks in London were as good as or better than home networks, both in terms of coverage and quality.
Again, Wi-Fi proved to be essential to build the positive perception among users, with more than 60% of respondents declaring to have been able to find Wi-Fi hotspots whenever needed. However, monetize this interest would have been troublesome, given that only 10% of respondents declared to have paid for Wi-Fi.

For the complete survey results, contact Huawei Latin America Public Relations team.
Ari Lopes is a principal analyst for Latin America with Informa Telecoms and Media. For more information, visit