5 minute read 11 Aug 2020
Man in a blue shirt, typing on a laptop computer

Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

Authors

Praveen Shankar

UK&I Technology, Media and Telecommunications Market Leader, Ernst & Young LLP

Broad experience in transformation and operations. Driving the 5G agenda. Focused on tackling the most pressing and complex business and technology challenges in the industry.

Martyn Whistler

EY Global Media & Entertainment Lead Analyst

Keen observer of all things media and entertainment. Storyteller. Avid reader. Bluff traditionalist, impatient for the future. Fan of sports, occasionally sporty. Fan of the arts, rarely arty.

5 minute read 11 Aug 2020
Related topics TMT Tech sector COVID-19

Lockdown measures and social distancing have created a dramatic importance on resilient and reliable home broadband connectivity.

E

Y consumer research of 2,500 households, conducted 27 May — 1 June, explores how perceptions, attitudes and needs towards technology, media and telecoms (TMT) products are changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This second article focuses on how lockdown measures have significantly increased the need for resilient and reliable home broadband connectivity and the importance for TMT providers to act now to meet evolving customer needs.

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Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

1. Broadband resilience and reliability emerge as the key consumer need

One in four households are worried about a downtick in broadband quality, with younger and larger households even more exposed to these fears

While EY research reveals consumers think broadband providers have handled the pandemic well — three in four believe they are coping well, above other types of TMT provider — many households are experiencing connectivity issues. Twenty-five percent are concerned by a reduction in broadband quality since the start of lockdown and 26% believe inconsistent broadband is affecting their ability to work from home.

Younger households are more exposed to these concerns. Thirty-two percent of 18–24 year olds worry about a reduction in broadband quality, with 38% of this group also finding it difficult to work from home as a result of inconsistent broadband performance. The same is true of larger households — 31% of homes with children have been concerned about a downtick in performance during the crisis.

Inconsistent broadband causing work from home issues

26%

of respondents agree inconsistent broadband is affecting their ability to work from home

Issues with inconsistent broadband higher for younger age groups

38%

of 18-24 year olds find it difficult to work from home because of inconsistent broadband performance

chapter2

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Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

2. A better broadband performance promise unlocks greater switching intent

Households prize consistent signals above speed, and a better performance guarantee would increase switching propensity

The COVID-19 crisis has made consumers realise the value of a resilient and reliable connection over speed – 35% agree this is the case, with only 11% disagreeing. And achieving maximum or minimum guaranteed speeds are not the top issues for households when they assess broadband reliability. Fifty-two percent of customers regard lack of buffering as a key indicator of broadband reliability while 50% say consistent broadband performance throughout the day is also a clear indicator of a reliable connection, the top two answers. 

Broadband reliability is key concern for households

35%

of all respondents agree COVID-19 has made them realise they value a resilient and reliable broadband connection over speed

Broadband reliability is key concern for households

11%

of all respondents disagree COVID-19 has made them realise they value a resilient and reliable broadband connection over speed

Crucially, a guarantee of better broadband performance sees households much more likely to switch provider. Only 16% of households say the COVID-19 situation has made them more likely to consider changing provider. However, switching appetite jumps to 43% if a guaranteed improvement in quality and speed were on offer. This is well above the one in four households experiencing connectivity issues and suggests that underwhelming performance is a latent issue for many. 

Switching propensity after the pandemic

16%

of households say the COVID-19 situation has made them more likely to consider changing provider in the next six months

Guaranteed improvement increases switching propensity

43%

would consider switching provider if an improvement in the quality and speed of broadband connection could be guaranteed

Interestingly, dense urban households show an even greater propensity to switch if they were assured of better performance (53%). These households tend to have access to better quality packages than counterparts in rural areas, but this hasn’t dimmed their interest in a better broadband connection. 

Network outages and customer speed promise are not the big issue — it's all about consistent signal and consistent speeds

Question: Which three, if any, of the following are the most important ways in which you assess how reliable your broadband connection is?

chapter3

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Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

3. Households want more support from their service providers

Effective guidance from broadband providers is missing — and consumers lack awareness of ‘self-help’ measures to boost signal quality

With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the reliance of a reliable home broadband connection, many households look for increased support from their service providers. Twenty-one percent of consumers say they value ongoing practical guidance more than before and 20% say they value regular updates more than they did previously. However, only 13% of households believe their service provider has given effective tips on how to get the most out of their connection and more than half disagree this is the case.

The research reveals a lack of consumer awareness of self-help measures they could take to maintain a good connection. When asked about different steps households could take themselves, no single method scored above 60%. Only 56% of households understood about reducing the number of devices connected to the Wi-Fi router, while 55% were aware of placing the Wi-Fi router away from objects that interfere with signals. Eighteen percent of households had no awareness of any of the nine options we provided.

 

Lack of effective connection improvement tips

13%

say their broadband provider has proactively given effective tips on how to ensure a reliable connection during the COVID-19 crisis

chapter4

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4

Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

4. Receptivity to virtual support drops since the start of lockdown

In the last two months, consumers’ receptivity to digital support channels to provide quick access to customer support has declined

In the first edition of the EY Digital Household COVID-19 survey conducted in March, 46% of broadband users said they would be open to digital support channels for quick access to customer support. Yet in the last two months, customers willingness to use automated customer services or virtual assistants has declined to 38%. This is despite a steady proportion — one in four customers — having a poor experience with call centres during the crisis.

However, the data reveals that contact centres still resonate with customers, with 28% saying they value technical support from call centres from before, compared with only 18% who value chatbot-based self-serve features more than before. And while up to one in four customers would prefer to use chatbots over the contact centres for queries such as package alterations, payments and performance issues, 42% don’t see any queries that could be better met via instant messaging capabilities.

Decline in receptivity to digital support channels

38%

of respondents agree they would be happy to use automated customer services/virtual assistants during the COVID-19 crisis for quick access to customer services

chapter5

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Broadband quality and resilience: a key consumer concern during COVID-19

5. Confusion around fibre broadband is holding back upgrade intentions

Connectivity providers need to communicate more clearly about full-fibre and 5G to remove the fog of confusion for customers

EY research shows that despite a new wave in digital infrastructure and related service propositions, customers remain confused over what full-fibre broadband is and the benefits it offers in terms of speed and reliability. Just over half of respondents, 54%, are aware of the differences between fibre, cable and full-fibre. In addition, only 42% said they understood marketing terms such as ‘ultrafast’ and ‘superfast’ and the benefits that each offers in terms of speed. Meanwhile, only 52% realise that many packages described as ‘fibre broadband’ are partially delivered using copper wires.

Confusion over different types of fibre connections

54%

are aware of the differences between different technologies such as fibre, cable and full-fibre

Lack of understanding over marketing terms

42%

understand marketing terms such as ‘ultrafast’ and ‘superfast’ and what these types of broadband package offer in terms of speed

Despite increasing reliance on broadband during the crisis, the desire to upgrade to full-fibre broadband remains low, with only 10% of households agreeing the pandemic has made them realise the need to upgrade to a full-fibre package. Similarly, interest in upgrading to 5G remains low, with only 14% of respondents more likely to consider purchasing a 5G connection as a result of the pandemic. 

Summary

Reliable and resilient broadband has become a critical consumer issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the EY June survey shows there is a disconnect between customers and service providers around network quality. To improve their relationships with households — and make the most of customer demand — there are four key considerations that service providers should address:

Next steps: four actions for connectivity providers to take now

  1. Overhaul your broadband value proposition to cater for reliability as well as speed
  2. Demystify full-fibre broadband and what it can offer households
  3. Provide better practical guidance and build more confidence in the Wi-Fi experience
  4. Create an integrated and seamless customer support experience

For details of each, please refer to the detailed EY report (PDF, 917KB).

About this article

Authors

Praveen Shankar

UK&I Technology, Media and Telecommunications Market Leader, Ernst & Young LLP

Broad experience in transformation and operations. Driving the 5G agenda. Focused on tackling the most pressing and complex business and technology challenges in the industry.

Martyn Whistler

EY Global Media & Entertainment Lead Analyst

Keen observer of all things media and entertainment. Storyteller. Avid reader. Bluff traditionalist, impatient for the future. Fan of sports, occasionally sporty. Fan of the arts, rarely arty.

Related topics TMT Tech sector COVID-19