80% of Smartphone Data Consumption Globally Now Uses Wi-Fi

Globally, Wi-Fi accounted for 80 percent of mobile and tablet data consumption, compared to data consumed on the mobile networks, at 20 percent, according to a new Mobidia report.

That explains the wide gap between reported “mobile data consumption” and actual end user data consumption on their smartphones.

Globally, smartphone and tablet users used in excess of 10 GB of data in December 2014, according to Ovum, up from about seven gigabytes in January 2014. That represents a 51 percent growth rate.

Apple iOS tablet users consumed about 12 GB, while Android tablet users consumed about nine gigabytes in December 2014, Ovum says.

Apple  iOS smartphone users consumed an average of about 11 GB of data in December 2014, just ahead of Android smartphone users with 10 GB. Consumers on Long Term Evolutin networks consumed even more data.

By December 2014, 4G Android smartphone users consumed 13 GB each month, dramatically higher than the 5GB/user/month of 3G Android smartphone users that month.

Wi-Fi has cemented its position as the dominant wireless access technology, with cellular playing a vital yet supporting role, Mobidia says, based on the results of a study conducted for Mobidia by Ovum.

“Wireless Internet access” is much more than “mobile access,” it is fair enough to note. Fixed wireless, satellite access and untethered access (Wi-Fi) are widely-used forms of Internet access beyond that used by mobile devices, connected to the mobile network.

It might also be fair to say that untethered access--which has been seen as a competitor to mobile access--might actually be emerging in precisely that way. “Cable operators, Internet giants, Wi-Fi-first startups and every cafe with a wireless router are all providers of wireless service,” Devicescape argues.

So a “wave of disruption” is coming, Devicescape argues.

Though it is reasonable to point out that Devicescape builds a business on the strength of Wi-Fi, especially the ability to create unified services out of a patchwork quilt of independent Wi-Fi hotspots, the notion that mobile service providers “must” or “should” incorporate Wi-Fi access into the overall fabric of connectivity choices is reasonable enough.

That, in fact, is assumed to be a key feature of future fifth generation mobile networks, and for simple reasons. Generally speaking, mobile network connectivity is best outdoors, less effective indoors, while Wi-Fi arguably operates best indoors, least effectively outdoors.

So mobile service providers must become “connectivity providers” using any available network resource, not “mobile access” providers, one might argue.

In part because as much as 70 percent of smartphone data is accessed using a Wi-Fi connection, mobile service providers must embrace connectivity by any available means, Devicescape argues.  

Devicescape calls that shift a move from “mobile” to “connectivity,” as users do not so much care about whether their access is provided by the mobile or the Wi-Fi networks. They only want to remain connected, at the best price, one might well argue.

That noted, Devicescape argues that 29 percent of mobile users never connect to their home Wi-Fi, while 53 percent keep Wi-Fi turned off when out and about. As a result, as much as 91 percent of public hotspot locations go unused.
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