Survey: Consumers confused by 3G

According to a recently released survey, and anecdotal information, Australians are either buying big when it comes to 3G services or not at all. Poor after-sale service, questionable connectivity and a lack of education are being blamed by resellers.

Manager of Sydney-based Just Mobile Phones, Matthew Reid, has had very few requests for 3G content packages. He is further discouraged from selling them due to ongoing issues with network services and after-sale support.

"We get a lot of customer complaints because the 3G networks just aren't reliable enough and the after-sale support from carriers just isn't there," he said. "Most of the customers who walk through the door have no idea what 3G is, and those that buy into the service are discouraged when it isn't what they expected."

A notable exception is Hutchison's 3 phones and content packages which are proving popular among fans of the Big Brother TV show and soccer aficionados looking for mobile access to highlights from the World Cup.

Store manager for Sydney-based Thomas' Mobile Phones, Jun Ho lee, said a lot of customers were interested in 3's entertainment-based mobile content packages.

"We sell a lot of content packages in conjunction with new phones," Lee said. "Customers often understand what the service is already but we also need to explain how the content package works and show them how to access it."

According to Lee, Hutchison's combination of marketing campaigns, package pricing and dealer incentives make 3G content an easy sell compared to other brands.

"The other brands do have 3G services, but customers are worried about how much they will end up paying," Lee said.

Such anecdotal evidence is borne out by the recently released 2006 Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index survey, conducted by the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA).

Of almost 4000 respondents, only 11 per cent owned a 3G mobile phone. While 66 per cent said they had bought mobile content in the past 12 months, most of this was limited to ring tones, wallpapers and screensavers rather than the media-rich services 3G networks enable.

AIMIA chair, Claudia Sagripanti, said the survey uncovered a lot of 3G confusion.

"The industry needs to get away from telling people what technology is and start showing them what they can do with it," she said.

Sagripanti said phone vendors and carriers needed to be more proactive when it came to retail campaigns and training if 3G content services were going to take off.