Consumers worldwide will keep shelling out for broadband internet, mobile and land-based phone service and text messaging even as they forgo bars, concerts and movie rentals during tough economic times, according to a new survey.

About the survey

The online survey included 2,200 people in Europe, Asia and Latin America. It was conducted between December 2008 and early January 2009, and the results were amalgamated with a survey of 3,000 U.S. residents. Results were analyzed and weighted by region.

About 60 per cent of 5,200 respondents in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the U.S. planned to cut spending in 2009 — 20 per cent significantly — according to the survey released Thursday by the telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent in conjunction with market research firms Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and Ipsos MediaCT.

But a majority of users said services they considered essential were:

  • Broadband internet.
  • A landline.
  • SMS/MMS (text messaging).
  • Free TV.
  • A monthly cellphone plan.
  • A prepaid cellphone plan

Broadband users

Broadband users were the most reliant, with 84 per cent listing the service essential. On the low end, only 52 per cent of users thought prepaid phone service was essential. However, a majority of respondents said they were unlikely to even cut back on services such as cellular data service.

The only technology services people said they were likely to cut back on were:

  • Downloading pay-per-view movies off the web.
  • Paid VoIP (voice over internet protocol services).
  • Pay TV.

The survey did not include Canadians, but Queen's University business professor Ken Wong said he thinks the results in Canada would likely have been similar. However, he said, the results don't necessarily mean consumers now consider technology suddenly a "staple" of their lives.

"But rather that they see it as the best means of … dealing with some staple problem like interpersonal communication, family connection."

Long trend: researcher

This is nothing new, he said.

"I'm sure if you looked at past recessions, people didn't cut back on their landline telephone service," he said.

He added that many people use broadband internet to cut back on spending. For example, universities may deliver lectures over the internet and employees may work over the internet from home.

Wong noted thrift is in right now, with consumers saying what they want is quality of life, which often comes down to their interpersonal relations. That means they are willing to spend on things that enhance those interpersonal relations.

"That's why I think you're seeing this huge spike in Facebook, and Twitter and so on, and other devices for staying abreast," Wong said.

In fact, even some seeming luxury devices that fit the bill may sell well in a recession.

Wong cited sales of Apple's latest iPhone. The iPhone 3G S went on sale in 22 countries Friday and sold more than a million units in its first three days.

Source: Lucent-Alcatel survey
 Areas where consumers are most likely to cut spending (in order)  Areas where consumers are least likely to cut spending (in order)
  • Going out to bars/clubs
  • Going to concerts
  • Renting movies (not online)
  • Going to sporting events
  • Downloading pay-per-veiw movies off web
  • Going out to the movies
  • Going out to restaurants
  • Leisure travel
  • Charitable contributions
  • Health clubs
  • Shopping (non-food)
  • Paid VoIP
  • Pay TV


  • Broadband internet
  • Education (college, work-related)
  • Landline phone
  • Monthly cell service (voice)
  • SMS/MMS (text messaging)
  • Prepaid cell service (voice)
  • Dial-up internet
  • Starting/running own business
  • Cellular data service