Wi-Fi Role Could Change in 5G Era

Price and quality matter, where it comes to user behavior related to use of internet access services and networks. In markets served by 3G networks, consumers chose to use Wi-Fi access because it saved them money, and provided a better experience. In most 4G markets, though “saving money” remains important, “quality” generally is not a driver, as 4G tends to be faster than Wi-Fi.

In the coming 5G era, it is conceivable that the new mobile network will eliminate “saving money” and “better quality” as reasons to offload access to Wi-Fi. That would represent a huge change in consumer behavior. To be sure, Wi-Fi will still be important. But its value to internet access constituencies could very well change.

If, in the 5G era, and even in the present 4G markets, unlimited usage plans eliminate both the advantages of “saving money” and “better experience” when switching to Wi-Fi.

On the other hand, some suppliers, particularly those with significant Wi-Fi assets, might find they can use Wi-Fi infrastructure to lower their mobile service operating and capital costs.

Likewise, mobile operators might benefit from bonding mobile access with Wi-Fi, in the “old way,” where offloading reduces traffic on the mobile network. But that advantage might be most valuable when customers are consuming video content, negligible to moderate for voice and messaging or internet access.
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