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Survey: Rural customers long for latest devices

A new survey conducted by Current Analysis and commissioned by the Competitive Carriers Association found that rural customers are actively shopping for the latest mobile devices and corresponding higher rate plans that typically accompany such devices.

The survey, which included a Web survey of the heads of approximately 400 rural households, found that 80% of rural customers looking to purchase a new device within the next three months plan on plunking their money down on a smartphone, with 10% looking to purchase a tablet. Just 9% of rural customers in the market for a new device have plans to purchase a “feature phone.” And of those that have recently purchased a new device, 77% picked up a smartphone, compared with 15% that purchased a tablet and only 8% that acquired a feature phone.

Of those that recently purchased a smartphone, 90% reported incomes in excess of $90,000 per year, while 77% with income over $150,000 bought their device at a carrier-branded store.

The survey also found that 34% of rural smartphone users rely exclusively on their wireless device, while nearly 40% feel they have “less choice when it comes to devices and service plans” compared with their big city counterparts. This has been a pillar of lobbying efforts by CCA, and a cornerstone of its continued efforts.

Beyond the device, coverage and pricing drove consumers to select their current wireless provider, with name recognition and device selection garnering less of the interest from rural customers. While rural carriers have for years touted superior coverage in their markets compared with larger rivals, the Current Analysis survey showed that 54% of those asked said they would have selected a local carrier, but were concerned about coverage. Just 10% of respondents said they would select a local carrier due to its more localized understanding of customer needs.

“In the end, rural subscribers are just like everyone else,” explained Peter Jarich, VP of Consumer and Infrastructure at Current Analysis. “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.”

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