As Puerto Rico’s dynamic wireless mobile market continues to evolve, so do customer trends and needs. For T-Mobile, notable tendencies that have emerged in recent months are a growth of the so-called “affordable smartphone” customer segment and a demand for more and better mobile content.
During his first meeting with members of the Puerto Rico media as general manager of T-Mobile Puerto Rico, Jorge Martel said while the younger mobile generation gravitates toward handsets featuring all of the “bells and whistles,” there is a growing customer base looking for simpler smartphones that are practical and affordable.
“We always advise customers to really take a look at what they need,” said Martel, who a little over a month ago was promoted from his former position as head of marketing for the island’s third-largest wireless carrier.
In many cases, customers who are in the 45-plus demographic, and are just getting into using smartphones, choose handsets such as the LG Optimus and the T-Mobile Comet, which are free with two-year contracts, Martel said.
Those handsets are ideal for surfing the Internet, keeping an agenda and conducting other simpler day-to-day tasks. Monthly data plans for those types of phones start at $19.99 — thus the affordability.
T-Mobile, which commands about 20 percent of the island’s wireless market — after AT&T and Claro — was the first to begin a migration into a fourth-generation wireless network, which offers users the capability to send and receive data at speeds that can theoretically reach 21 megabits per second. Wireless companies have opted for deploying HSPA+ platforms, which have become a standard for 4G services.
In October 2010, T-Mobile flipped the switch on its HSPA+ 4G network, for which it made an initial investment of $50 million. Through the network, the carrier vowed to facilitate faster video streaming, downloads and other multimedia capacities that are built-in to most smartphones and tablet computers flooding the market these days. Upgrading to a 4G network, in most cases, triples the speeds available through a preceding 3G network.
“Since we launched 4G in October, we didn’t just benefit our existing 3G customers who are now experiencing faster speeds, but saw a migration of customers from simple voice devices to those that offer data services as well,” said Martel. “We also saw current customers getting the mobile Internet devices [like the Rocket USB Laptop stick].”
Earlier this month, both AT&T and Claro announced their own HSPA+ upgrades, pushing the island’s wireless competitive levels up another notch.
To extend all of the HSPA+ upgrade benefits, carriers must launch devices able to channel the promised speeds. On Tuesday, T-Mobile announced the introduction of the Galaxy S 4G, its first smartphone with the capacity of reaching the 21 Mbps theoretical speeds.
Other features embedded in the handset are: enhanced mobile entertainment experiences including mobile HD TV3 through T-Mobile TV; a full version of Academy Award nominee “Inception;” and T-Mobile Video Chat powered by Qik; all visible through its 4-inch, high-definition touch screen display.
The Galaxy S 4G is one of at least 25 4G-capable devices — aside from Tablet PCs — that T-Mobile expects to incorporate into its portfolio this year, Martel said.
“The industry is going to continue pursuing faster speeds, and with that content,” he said. “Movies, applications for areas such as banking, telemedicine and others will be things we’ll see as this industry continues moving forward,” he noted.
Puerto Rico’s wireless industry reportedly generates close to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs on the island. It has been recognized globally as one of the most active, and Puerto Rico customers among the most talkative in the world. As of last year, there were approximately 2.7 million wireless customers on the island.