Understanding Consumer Perception of 4G Technology

Do consumers always understand what they’re buying or being sold?

Technology is just a means to an end for most of us, unless you’re a technology enthusiast willing to educate yourself on the meaning behind the jargon that surrounds everyday gadgets like mobile phones. Terms like 4G and 3G are heavily present in consumer marketing from leading mobile phone networks EE, O2, Vodafone and Three, but do these terms mean anything to most of us if we don’t know what value choosing one or the other will add to our lives?
4Gee broadband
Social Media offers a wealth of readily available real-time and historical data that, if analysed with rigour, will reveal the true proportions of pain and passion points that emerge from topical conversations when viewed as a whole.
Typically this sort of granular analysis would be highly labour intensive and manual and so time, resource availability, and relatively high costs put this research off limits. Our clients use Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ with its patented BrightView™ algorithm to efficiently and accurately segment the total conversation right down to the nuanced drivers of sentiment in a matter of hours making what follows cost efficient and strategically high value.
So using ForSight we performed contextual analysis of social media conversations about 4G networks in the UK (the fourth generation of mobile phone mobile communication technology standards) over the last year to uncover consumers’ unique value and pain points with 4G in general and with EE and O2 4G services.
Let’s start by taking a look at Crimson Hexagon’s analysis to see how UK consumers reacted to the advent of 4G in general. Then we will compare this backdrop to the conversations surrounding the EE and O2 4G services brands?
4G topics of online consumer conversation


  1. Positive commentary about 4G coverage outweighs negative opinion (37% vs. 28%)  Many consumers share their recent upgrade experience (25%)
  2. Data download speed is not the main issue; instead, unexpected poor reception on 4G drives present criticism (8%)
  3. Many still have questions about 4G limitations and plan benefits (8%)

Overall, 4G trends positive on social media, but poor coverage and confusion about services weigh down the reputation of 4G mobile technology


Focusing next on EE, which was the first to provide 4G in the UK, we uncover which factors most contribute to favourable and unfavourable experiences with EE 4G networks in the UK.
EE 4G consumer response


  1. 19% praise speed increase with 4G
  2. Nearly two-thirds of conversation is negatively-charged (64%)
  3. In addition to the 33% of the conversation registering general bad performance, 17% complain about signal strength, and another 3% go on to say data is not the issue with EE 4G: it is sub-standard call reception
  4. Consumers also reflect on poor 3G coverage with EE, and feel that 4G is now “forced” upon them with no major benefit (7%)


Now let’s take a look at the O2 slice of the conversations about 4G.
O2 4G consumer response


  1. 31% of online conversation reflects intent to upgrade to 4G – Some even say they will leave current provider for O2 (3%)
  2. Largest complaint among consumers today is that 4G is not available on iPhone 5 with 02 (43%)
  3. 10% say 3G coverage should be improved before implementing 4G; many also express signal strength is needed over data (6%)
  4. Interestingly, the largest complaint about O2 is device-specific: 4G coverage is not available for iPhone 5 customers (43%)

4G in the UK

The key findings can be summarized in one bite sized statement by saying that 4G suffers from an image problem in the UK. For example, we reveal how consumers still have the misconception that 4G coverage will improve call reception. More market education is needed to help consumers better understand the benefits and limitations of 4G coverage.
The Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ platform can help companies get an early read on consumers’ reactions to competitive offerings. So whilst it came as a surprise to see just how many consumers still don’t know what they are buying into with 4G, perhaps, if they had been listening to consumer opinion on social media, it should have been no surprise at all for the mobile phone operators already heavily invested in offering UK consumers 4G.

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