Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 1–2, pp 65–84 | Cite as

Network effects and the choice of mobile phone operator

  • Daniel BirkeEmail author
  • G. M. Peter Swann
Regular Article


This paper explores the role of network effects in the consumer’s choice of mobile phone operators in the UK. It contributes to the existing literature by taking a new approach to testing for direct network effects and by using individual-level data, which allows to analyse the impact that the immediate social network has on consumer choice in network markets. For our empirical analysis we use two sources of data: market-level data from the British telecommunications regulator OFCOM and micro-level data on consumers’ usage of mobile telephones from the survey, Home OnLine. We estimate two classes of models which illustrate the role of network effects. The first is an aggregate model of the comparative volume of on-net and off-net calls. This finds that the proportion of off-net calls falls as mobile operators charge a premium for off-net calls, but even in the absence of any price differential between on-net and off-net, there is still a form of pure network effect, where a disproportionate number of calls are on-net. The second is a model of the individual consumer’s choice of operator. This finds that individual choice shows considerable inertia, as expected, but is heavily influenced by the choices of others in the same household. There is some evidence that individual choice of operator is influenced by the total number of subscribers for each operator, but a much stronger effect is the operator choice of other household members.


Network effects Social networks Mobile telecommunications Discrete choice 

JEL Classification

D12 L96 M31 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Doctoral Programme, Jubilee CampusNottingham University Business SchoolNottinghamUK

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