The Continental Broadband Association (CBA), a consortium of broadband suppliers in North America, formed a committee called the Wireless Services Committee. WSC advises municipalities about creating and maintaining citywide wireless networks. The networks typically
allow for low-cost, universal access within the limits of a city or other municipality.
WSC contracted with Market Data Now, Inc. (MDNI) to create a customer survey, administer the survey, and analyze its results. During the spring of 2010, MDNI market analysts developed and tested paper and online surveys by talking to CBA personnel, representatives from cities and incorporated areas of various sizes, holding a focus group with clients of CBA member businesses, and meeting individually with three representatives of local government and three broadband suppliers who are interested in establishing or have already established municipal wireless (or WiFi) networks.
Purposes of the Analysis
The purposes of the analysis are the following:
Assess customer satisfaction for the WiFi services provided by CBA members.
Assess customer demand for WiFi services in areas that do not have this service.
Determine how CBA members can improve their wireless services.
Provide information on the pros and cons of WiFi.
Personnel and Organization
The MDNI employees directly involved in this market analysis are Michael Balczak, Katarina Thao, and Lori Tollefson, who coauthored this report. They worked directly with Marcus Suttenberg, chair of the WSC and founder of American Plains Networks in Kansas City, Missouri. Marcus worked with CBA staff and MDNI to develop three survey questionnaires (a different survey for small cities, large cities, and suburban and rural areas) and discussion questions for the focus groups.
Market Research Overview
During May of 2010, the MDNI market analysis team and Suttenberg finalized the survey questionnaire, which was then sent to 502 subscribers of CBA broadband services and 290 people who already use wireless networks, for a total of 792 questionnaires. Potential respondents were given the choice of filling out and sending in the paper survey or filling out and submitting an Internet survey.
Demographics of Respondents
Of the 792 people sent the survey, 110 (14%) submitted complete and valid paper or electronic surveys by the deadline of September 9, 2010. Of the valid returned surveys, 98 were customers of CBA companies, for a return rate of 19%, which was substantially higher than the return rate for the customers of other types of broadband services (9%). We assume the reason for this is that the surveys were clearly identified as soliciting information to provide or improve wireless services. We conclude that those who responded to the survey are especially interested in developing or enhancing wireless networking in their city, town, or area. Therefore, the remainder of this report is based on the 98 respondents, and the term “respondents” from now on will refer specifically to the CBA customers who are interested in wireless networks.
Of the total number of respondents (98), 41 (42%) returned the paper surveys, and of course, the other 57 (58%) submitted electronic surveys. The demographics of the respondents who are customers of current CBA member companies and are interested in developing or extending wireless networks in their areas are shown in Figure 1.
We conclude that the number of valid returns from CBA member customers was sufficiently high and the demographics of the respondents were sufficiently broad to provide meaningful information on which to base an analysis of wireless technology provided by CBA member companies.
Based on information derived from the surveys, CBA member companies provide reasonably priced, reliable broadband service to the five states we surveyed. The surveys also revealed a high, unmet demand for municipal wireless networking. Specifically, respondents requested the following services:
Provide wireless networking service in general for Internet access
Publicize wireless network access points
Publish information in easy-to-read form (such as a brochure or card) that explains how to access a wireless network
Research areas that wireless networks do not currently service and why
Include subscription reductions depending on location and service needs
Survey Results and Analysis
The survey included 75 items, each of which was a statement to which the respondents gave a rating of 1 to 5 based on their level of agreement. For example, one item was “The educational materials provided before the tour were helpful.” The complete survey is not included in this report but is available from MDNI or Continental Broadband Association (CBA).
The MDNI team of market analysts compiled the results and calculated average ratings for each of the 75 items. The following sections include an analysis of each of the major areas of the survey.
Current Wireless Services
Thirty-eight percent of CBA members provide wireless networking services, and all of those consult directly with cities and other municipalities to set up and maintain a citywide wireless network. Specifically, CBA members who provide wireless networking offer the following services:
Construct the wireless network, including devices, cables, and power access.
Negotiate access to the city infrastructure, such as street light poles, electrical conduits, and city buildings to construct the network.
Offer broadband rights to the municipalities.
Maintain the wireless networking equipment, including network access points and radio transmitters.
Conduct pilot programs to allow cities to test and monitor a proposed network
In terms of the current wireless services, respondents were generally pleased. However, for the statement “After contracting for wireless services, I received adequate training on maintaining the equipment,” the average rating was only 1.75; and for the statement “It was easy to find out how to access a wireless network,” the average rating was only 2.6. Clearly, government employees and local customers felt that they didn’t receiving training or receive information about the basics of using wireless networks. An approach that might help rectify this problem is an advertising campaign, as indicated by the relative high rating (4.1) to the statement “Printed and broadcast information about how to use a wireless network would be welcome.”
On the positive side, customers gave high ratings (2.9) to the statement “After the wireless network was installed, I enjoyed using its services.” So, clearly, the customers appreciate the services, though they want to know more about them.
Requested Wireless Services
Respondents, who are elected officials and staff employees of local governments and citizens interested in networking technology, expressed interest in the following services not already provided by CBA members:
Training in maintaining and repairing equipment.
Promotion and advertising to highlight the benefits and features of wireless technology.
Communication to a broad population about how to subscribe or otherwise access wireless networks.
As illustrated in Figure 1. Respondent Response Rate, respondents consider all three components to be essential.
The respondents had mixed feelings about current subscription rates, as indicated below.
Broadband Subscription Rates
Although most respondents (58%) would like to have their current broadband subscription rates reduced, only a small minority (16%) felt that they were not receiving value for their subscriptions. For example, in response to the statement “I appreciate my broadband Internet access and use it frequently,” the respondents gave a rating of 3.7. However, when asked directly about subscription fees, respondents were lukewarm. In response to the statement “My current subscription fee is fair and manageable,” respondents gave a rating of 2.8, when we would expect a higher rating. We assume this slightly below average rating means that they would like to have their subscription rates reduced or services improved.
Wireless Subscription Rates
Most of the respondents did not want to pay significantly more for their wireless Internet access, and prefer to have their local government absorb some of the cost, especially for maintaining equipment. From the comments of the focus group as well as written comments in the Suggestions section of the survey, $10 is a reasonable additional amount to pay for wireless subscriptions.
Another problem, as might be expected, is usage frequency. Most respondents (57%) preferred sharing the cost of setting up and deploying a citywide wireless network, though some suggested that those who don’t use the service could opt out of payment, even if that increased their monthly subscription by up to $5 per month.
Overall, the respondents had positive interactions with CBA personnel when they worked with them in person. Ratings declined (from 61% positive to 48% positive) when the interactions were on the phone only
The managers are the ones who meet with local government officials and plan a wireless network. They also coordinate initial communications with first subscribers. According to the survey responses, the majority of respondents said the project managers were helpful, knowledgeable, and coillustrates the percentage who ranked their project manager’s competence as high, average, and low.
Potential for Growth
One section of the survey asked respondents to offer suggestions for growth. For this section of the survey, the respondents had to give a different kind of rating. Here the surveys listed a particular service, and the respondents had to give a rating based on their level of enthusiasm for the service. The results were overall very favorable.
Most of these results are expected, with the popular Web services getting higher ratings than the lesser-known services, such as blogs and catalogs. We were surprised to discover that e-business services were the most requested. Other studies have reported similar findings.