In UK operators go zero rated we explained how mobile firms are still trying to market to age demographics rather than lifestyle. It’s not working.

One missed opportunity lies around focussing on a person’s movements. While we’ve seen MNOs and MVNOs create intra-EU roaming plans that cost the same as at home (see though The truth about roaming billshock) – albeit largely because it was mandated – they are doing little to accommodate those that travel inside their home country, such as commuters.

According to Cobham Wireless, both MNOs and MVNOs are missing a trick here. They say that 51% of UK commuters would prefer to use their mobiles for internet access when commuting – largely because they do not trust train WiFi. But mobile services are often too unreliable.

Cobham Wireless’s study indicates that 52% of passengers are unable to work at least some of the time while commuting because of poor connectivity issues on trains. Twenty-four per cent of passengers said that mobile phone coverage was poor and only 33% believed it was good enough to connect them to the Internet. Only 13% believe that train WiFi was good, and 22% said it wasn’t available on their route at all.

Being connected while commuting is not just about entertainment. 3.7 million workers now experience a daily commute of more than two hours, as well as the millions of other workers that have shorter commutes, which means there is a clear opportunity to innovate by helping them become more productive.

Connectivity – irrespective of technology – is a key component of a successful package aimed at travellers and commuters, but this has to be highly available, high quality and secure. Respondents to the Cobham study indicated that they hated having to sign on to train WiFi, which clearly favours a mobile solution with instant access. Cost is another issue. Personally, the high cost of train WiFi can be a barrier to usage, although some train operators (eg Hull Trains) now offer it free to all passengers. However, many passengers would be happy to pay something extra to transform two hours a day into productive time, and many companies would also pay for this on behalf of their workers. Which begs the question: why is this market not being addressed better?

Cobham’s survey was conducted by YouGov, which polled over 2,000 consumers across Britain. Half of these commuters had journeys lasting longer than 30 minutes. For more information see Mobile reception not up to scratch on UK trains