Discussion Papers

Alwin Mahler

Determinanten der Diffusion neuer Telekommunikationsdienste
Nr. 157 / März 1996


With the tremendous advance in the telecommunication technology many new telecommunication services have been introduced within the last years. Some had an immediate take off, others - despite high expectations of the telecommunication industry - were hardly adopted by the market. The question arises what determines the adoption and diffusion of those innovative telecommunication services and what are possible obstacles for their diffusion. This study intends to contribute from a theoretical and em-pirical point of view to this area of research.

As analytical framework the general and interdisciplinary diffusion theory of Rogers is applied. Three components of the diffusion process - the innovation, the spread over time and the social system - are discussed in depth. The analysis shows some evidence that externalities and the related problem of compatibility standards are crucial for the diffusion of telecommunication services. Those factors, combined with the complexitity which characterises many of the new services, affect all of the attributes of the innovation's perception by the adoptor regarded as central for its rate of adoption. Typically this implies that at the beginning the rate of adoption is very low and the diffusion curve tends to be left skewed. Regarding the externalities and the interdependent demand which comes with them, it is crucial for the diffusion to reach a "critical mass" of adoptors. However, the impact of those specific characteristics of telecommunication innovations on the diffusion depends a lot on the interrelationship of the units within the social system e.g. for companies the market mediated relationships between them.

In the context of the theoretical analysis, many hypothesises for the diffusion of new telecommunication services are developed. Those are tested with primary data conducted from almost 400 banks in Germany regarding their usage of new telecommunication services. A positive relationship between the innovativeness and the indepen-dent variable results for the size of the company, its prevailing telecommunication related technological equipment and know-how. The expected positive relationship can not be found for the growth of the company and its general innovativeness (e.g. in respect of the introduction of data processing systems).

Concerning obstacles for the adoption of new telecommunication services, the survey confirms the importance of a relatively high degree of diffusion for the adoption decision as well as obstacles with respect to the innovation's complexity and its organisational compatibility. No confimation is found for the technological and the "individuals" compatibility. A generall confirmation for a possible theoretical explanation of the left skewed diffusion curve can not be found in the data either. Regarding the varying appearence of the specifics (e.g. externalities) depending on the new service under consideration, it is recommended to undertake diffusion studies for each new telecommunication service seperately. It is questionable to derive from technological specifics which can be found for some telecommunication services general implications for their diffusion, and those found in the literature should be reviewed if they apply to the new telecommunication service under consideration.

Only German language version available.

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