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Wi-Fi now carries 80+% of mobile traffic: Threat or opportunity?

By Claus Hetting   /     Nov 11, 2014  /     Blog, Uncategorized  /  

Some remarkable new usage numbers out today from Mobidia: In Western markets the Wi-Fi proportion of data traffic on LTE devices now exceeds 80%. In Germany, the number is close to 90%. So should mobile carriers be anxious or thrilled about this?

First of all: The story (perpetrated by some mobile carriers & a big part of the mobile vendor industry) that ‘all you need is LTE’ is clearly wrong. Users actively prefer Wi-Fi to LTE nearly all the time. There was a time a few years back when mobile broadband was viewed as a replacement for landline connectivity. But that story is clearly also over.

wi-fi_usage

Data courtesy of Mobidia

You could also argue that mobile carriers should count their blessings because the effect of all of the Wi-Fi usage is that traffic is (by user selection) being offloaded to fixed networks. This saves MNOs from having to build out (enormous) capacity to support all this data.

On the other hand, mobile operators are arguably losing relevance as the service provider of choice. And that’s the real problem. At last weeks Wi-Fi Global Congress, Dixon Doll of DCM perhaps said it best: Wi-Fi is now the primary means of connectivity. Mobile is second. 

The more traffic that leaves mobile networks in favour of Wi-Fi, the more relevance mobile operators will lose in the lives of consumers. This of course does not mean that mobile will go away because there are still huge benefits of offering wide area coverage & the convenience of always being connected to something. But it does mean that mobile carriers are losing the handle on the market.

So what to do? I’ve been advocating (for a long time) that mobile carriers start getting into the Wi-Fi world. T-Mobile USA already is and a small number of others (including for example Orange, EE, Iliad) have seen the writing on the wall.

I grant that embracing Wi-Fi for mobile operators is not a simple proposition. But it needs to be done. The alternative is a lot worse.

And if you want to know how to go about all of this, you need to make plans right now to come to the Wi-Fi Innovation Summit in Copenhagen on December 9-10. We will be tackling the challenges and opportunities head on with the leadership of the industry’s foremost experts. Go to this link and reserve your seat today!

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