FMC a Hard Sell say Analysts

New fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) solutions based on combined mobile/home phones are likely to generate considerable interest from consumers but such interest will be difficult to convert into sales in the face of strong competition from solutions based on mobile phones only, according to a new report, Consumer Demand for Fixed-Mobile Convergence Solutions: a survey of end users, published by Analysys, the global advisers on telecoms, IT and media.

The report is based on a survey conducted for Analysys Research by TNS, which had over 3000 respondents across France, Germany and Great Britain, and revealed that 13% of respondents were very interested in purchasing a combined mobile/home phone. However, in France and Germany even more respondents (18% and 21%, respectively) would prefer to use their mobile phone all the time if their mobile operator could offer them discounts on mobile calls made at home.

“O2 has offered home-zone pricing in Germany for several years but was joined in doing so by Vodafone in June 2005,” notes Katrina Bond, principal analyst at Analysys Research and lead author of the report.

“We expect such offers to spread elsewhere in Europe and present strong competition for solutions based on combined mobile/home phones, such as BT Fusion, which works like a mobile phone but automatically diverts the call to a BT broadband line when the user is at home.” BT Fusion was launched on a limited basis in the UK the same month that Vodafone launched its fixed-mobile substitution (FMS) product in Germany.

According to the Analysys survey, 37% of respondents said that they were not perfectly happy with their current choice of phone types. And 29% of survey respondents revealed that they would be deterred by solutions that charged people who call them as though they were calling a mobile phone.

“Both combined mobile/home phones and mobile home-zone pricing offer customers the advantages of being able to use a single phone wherever they are, with discounted call prices when the phone is used in the home environment,” states Bond. “This is clearly very appealing to consumers. However, the challenge will be to overcome their inertia by offering and marketing solutions that give them the convenience and lower call costs they crave, without making them incur large costs for special handsets or base stations, and without making the people who call them pay more.”

The report presents the analysis of the survey results and points out that mobile home-zone pricing, which promotes FMS, will appeal to market segments with similar demographic and telecoms usage profiles to those interested in combined mobile/home phones, which promote FMC.
“Those most interested in purchasing a combined mobile/home phone are typically 25–44 years old, already have a mobile phone and use broadband Internet access at home,” says Yanli Suo-Saunders, co-author of the report. “Additional characteristics, such as gender or WLAN usage, help define more specific target market segments in certain markets.”

Given the overlapping target markets, and the ability of mobile home-zone pricing to offer many of the same benefits as combined mobile/home phones, targeted marketing as well as pricing will be crucial to the success of services based on combined mobile/home phones.

Based on survey responses, the report ranks various features that will attract consumers to, or deter them from, FMC solutions. Pricing issues rank highly, with results indicating that consumers will be attracted by cheaper mobile and landline calls at home, as well as by better deals on combined subscriptions for mobile, landline and broadband services. Consumers will also be strongly deterred by their callers being charged mobile rates and by high prices for handsets.

Technical issues, such as call handover between the home and wide areas, and battery life of the converged devices, will also affect the success of FMC solutions.

The report provides detailed analysis of the unique, independent, end-user survey, enabling equipment manufacturers and service providers to more effectively design and market their FMC and FMS voice services.