Ken’s Tech Tips Index: Survey of 8,000 shows Tesco, Three & T-Mobile are best networks

February 24th, 2011

Our latest study looks at the performance of each network in the aftermath of Christmas. Tesco Mobile again takes the title of best performing network with Three and T-Mobile both gaining ground.

What is the Ken’s Tech Tips index?

The Ken’s Tech Tips Index is our regular study looking into how well each mobile phone network is performing in terms of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. We believe that consumers vote with their feet. We believe that by looking at how well networks can attract and retain customers, we can determine how good a network really is.

We polled 8,199 people through our PAC Code Finder tool on their intention of switching network. From the responses, we determine how rapidly a network is gaining new customers and losing existing ones. The Ken’s Tech Tips “index score” is “the number of customers who join a given network for every 100 customers who leave that network”.

If a network has a high score in the Ken’s Tech Tips Index, it means they are gaining customers a lot faster than they lose them. This is perhaps a good indication that the products they provide are better value for consumers (or alternatively, it could just mean they are doing a great job with publicity or sales).

A score above 100 in the index means that network is gaining customers faster than it is losing them. Meanwhile, a score below 100 is bad news: it means the network is losing customers faster than it can replace them.

There are two ways by which a network can improve their Ken’s Tech Tips Index score. They can either attract more new customers or they can better retain their existing customers. The ways by which a network can do this are to provide better value to new and existing consumers, to offer better customer service and to improve their customer experience.

We’ve previously run this study on two occasions:

In this latest study, we consider the time period between 20th December 2010 and 19th February 2011. In this period, we expect to see all of the activations occurring just after Christmas (traditionally Christmas is a Pay As You Go market) as well as all the activations occurring in the first part of 2011.

How did the networks fare in this study?

This study was run across 62 days (20th December 2010 and 19th February 2011). We asked users of the PAC Code Finder tool the question “Select your current network provider and the network that you wish to move to” and received n=6145 unique responses.

  • The best performing network was Tesco Mobile as in the previous study (290 new customers for every 100 customers who leave the network). Three are runners-up (148 new customers for every 100 customers who leave the network).
  • Once again, O2 and Virgin Mobile are the worst performing networks (61 and 57 new customers respectively for every 100 customers who leave).
  • Compared to the previous study, only Three and T-Mobile are performing better than before.

The results of our study are shown below with the results from the previous study in brackets for comparison.

Rank Prev.
Network Ken’s Tech Tips Index (higher is better)
(results from previous study)
1 (1) Tesco Mobile 289.8 (311.2)
2 (2) Three 148.1 (143.6)
3 (3) T-Mobile 129.6 (123.5)
4 (5) Orange 94.4 (95.8)
5 (4) Vodafone 90.7 (103.3)
6 (7) O2 60.8 (62.4)
7 (6) Virgin Mobile 57.4 (63.5)

Why are Tesco Mobile and Three performing so well?

  • Until the 25th January 2011, Tesco Mobile was offering a popular “500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet for £10/month” SIM-only promotion. We’ve noticed that this tariff has been hugely popular and was particularly successful in gaining customers who previously bought a smartphone in Christmas 2008 on a 24-month contract. The deal was removed half-way through the period of our study and could account for the change in Tesco’s score in this study. Tesco’s score saw the largest fall of any network (-21.4 compared to the previous study). It will be interesting to see whether Tesco can maintain its high score in our next study.
  • Besides T-Mobile, Three was the only network to improve their score since the previous study. Their gain of +4.5 points closes the gap between Three and Tesco. Part of this could perhaps be attributed to the launch of all-you-can-eat data on The One Plan. Given that Three only began a major advertising campaign for this feature in mid-February, we are unlikely to see the full extent of these tariff changes in this study.
  • T-Mobile also performed well in our study, gaining +6.1 points since the previous study. T-Mobile’s 500MB fair usage limit for new customers came into play at the start of February but so far we see no evidence that it has harmed T-Mobile in their ability to attract new customers.

Why are Virgin Media and O2 performing so badly?

In the three studies we have run so far, Virgin Media and O2 have both consistently performed badly. We have discussed some of the possible reasons for this in our previous study reports.

Notes on our study…

  • Our study measures intention to switch and not whether customers actually go ahead and make that switch. However, we expect this data to be strongly correlated.
  • Our study also fails to consider customers who may switch network but decide not to switch number (customers who don’t use a PAC Code). Our study also does not consider mobile broadband and tablet tariffs (for which a PAC Code is not required to switch).
  • This study considers people who switch network and port phone numbers between 20th December 2010 and 19th February 2011. This time period will include the activation of phones and SIM cards received as Christmas gifts.
  • The sample size is n=8,199 users of the PAC Code Finder tool. We have only analysed data in aggregate form and no personal details are collated during this study.
  • We have excluded Asda Mobile and Giffgaff from our index due to limited data – so few people (n < 100) said they were switching from/to those networks that our results would have had incredibly large error bars. Had they been included, they would have scored 185.7 and 1015.0 respectively. Given that Giffgaff is such a new network, we would expect them to have a high score simply for the fact that there are very few existing customers who are able to leave the network.

Please contact Ken if you have any further questions on the study or to request an information pack detailing the study.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

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