Mobile versus landline

28.11.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

The great debate rings on

They are everywhere. Or are they? The latest opinion poll shows that only 16% of Ukrainians, or just 7 million people in a country of over 40 million, do not have a mobile phone. What is more surprising is that 84% of the population still uses land line telephones. As cellular use spreads, it is important for the authorities and telecom companies to understand why the public likes its old landlines. Ukraine was a telecom operator´s dream after independence. The country was ripe for portable phones. Getting a phone in the soviet days was no easy matter with abundant red tape and documentation demands. Most people relied on neighbours, the office phone, street phones and telegram messages - problematic at best. First the pager, then the mobile - mobilny - solved this inconvenient social problem. Marketers simply thought they had to fill this gap. But Ukrainian society is more complex. Telecom operators need to understand the deeper social and cultural aspects of mobile phone use. It is naive to claim that only little old ladies in remote villages have not purchased a mobile. In fact, the villagers have been some of the first to snap them up as many waited forever and a day for landlines to be installed. Farmers found it a convenient tool for help with stuck equipment or to check on progress during harvesting. Even mothers, from a distance, could remind children to stop fooling around and milk the cows. Another marketing mistake was to think poor people did not buy mobiles. The mobilny is a favourite of those who cannot afford the landline rates, with no firm address, like students and renters, and foreigners. Another fallacy has been that all business people have them. The press quoted one busy lawyer who claimed the constantly ringing mobile upset his personal space. Of mobile users, at least 10% own two phones. Even these have their particular use - home, work and socializing. One young woman owns three - one for each boyfriend. Marketers and authorities definitely need to better understand the underlying reasons for mobile use before selling and over-regulating.

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