Feature Article

September 17, 2013

Low-income Rural Customers are Highest Adopters of Mobile Technology

It may sound paradoxical, but according to a new report by Current Analysis and the Competitive Carriers Association, people with lower incomes in rural areas are among the most valuable wireless broadband customers.

“We are thrilled to join Competitive Carriers Association in this investigation into rural wireless consumers’ habits,” commented Dave Lemelin, Director of Custom Research at Current Analysis. “Our analysis shows that rural customers seeking mobile solutions enter the purchase process with specific expectations which sometimes evolve as they weigh their local and online options.”

Current released the results at the CCA’s annual convention in Las Vegas. According to the survey, 70 percent of people making less than $25,000 a year planned to purchase a smartphone. More than 80 percent of rural wireless subscribers planned to purchase a smartphone, with 10 percent planning to buy a tablet. Only nine percent wanted to buy a feature phone.

While smartphones and tablets are more expensive than basic phones, they’re still much cheaper than laptops and desktops, and users can play games, check e-mails and watch streaming video just as well on these devices as they can on PCs.

“The findings in Current Analysis’s research are significant,” said Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of the CCA. “The data shows that lower income individuals in rural areas are choosing to buy the more expensive devices – smartphones. This should be a clear indication to policymakers that there is demand for high-speed mobile broadband in rural areas, and competitive carriers must have the ability to continue to build out their networks in these areas.”

Around 40 percent of rural wireless subscribers said they had fewer choices in devices and service plans than other customers, something Current Analysis and the CCA hope the research could go a long way in solving.

“Additionally, just as in urban areas, the research shows that rural customers are dropping wireline services,” Berry said. “Rural wireless subscribers often use their mobile device as their primary internet and communications tool, and seamless connectivity must be a reality for these subscribers. We’re thrilled to see that Current Analysis’s research helps to highlight the demand for high-speed wireless networks, sophisticated devices and innovative service offerings in these often under-served communities, along with the great opportunity for competitive carriers who can meet these demands.”

“In the end,” Berry said, “rural subscribers are just like everyone else. They want and will use high-value devices, high-speed networks and innovative new wireless services. It is up to the industry to take advantage of the opportunity these markets present.”

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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