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FOUR years can be an eternity in telecom-years, if a survey by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is anything to go by. The regulator's latest consumer awareness and satisfaction survey revealed marked changes in consumer behaviour since the last time it was conducted in 2010.
The most dramatic development can be found in the mobile broadband area, especially where mobile phone data is concerned. In IDA's latest survey, which covered 1,500 people, 64.3 per cent of respondents subscribe to mobile phone data - a big jump from 38.1 per cent just four years ago.
This mobile data savviness has had an impact on conventional roaming voice calls and SMSes. While one in two respondents had used a conventional roaming service in the past year during the 2010 survey, only two in five - or 40.6 per cent - have done the same this time around.
Instead, data roaming plans with flat rates occupy more room in the traveller's mind now, with 72.8 per cent of international roaming users aware of them, compared to just 37.1 per cent in 2010.
Despite all this love of mobile data, the survey, released on Monday, found only 5.4 per cent of mobile broadband subscribers have a plan that offers unlimited data usage. A good 62.1 per cent are aware of the rate charged for excess data usage, but a sizeable 32.5 per cent are "not sure".
In contrast to the fervent demand for mobile services, reliance on fixed-line telephone services moved in the opposite direction. Almost a third of mobile phone users surveyed - 31.5 per cent - believe that fixed-line telephones can be completely replaced by mobile phone services, compared to 25.3 per cent four years ago. The proportion of respondents who subscribe to fixed telephone lines also declined by 2.5 percentage points, from 90 per cent in 2010 to 87.5 per cent this year.
At the same time, fixed broadband adoption has grown further to 84.4 per cent, from an already high 75.3 per cent in 2007.
Interestingly, the proportion of non-subscribers to fixed broadband citing a lack of need for the service has gone up slightly, from 52.6 per cent in 2010 to 55.2 per cent in 2014. At the same time, the percentage of people steering clear of it because they "do not know how to use the Internet" has increased from 28.8 per cent to 29.9 per cent.
The IDA also found that consumers here were "generally satisfied" with telecoms services, which comprise fixed line telephone, mobile phone, fixed broadband and mobile broadband. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "very dissatisfied" and 5 meaning "very satisfied", all these services received ratings of above 3.5 for quality of service, price competitiveness of service offerings and variety of services.
Feedback on newer entrants such as MyRepublic and ViewQwest was also received, but they were omitted from the report due to the "small sample sizes," IDA said.
The regulator's survey was carried out from late-December last year to mid-March this year.