Tuesday 10 September 2013

Wi-Fi and Cellular Data - Two sides of the same coin?

Going through a presentation from Small Cells World Summit, Analysis Mason argues that all WiFi activity is not just offload / substitution of cellular data but to a lot of extent its addition too. I completely agree as I think that once users get used to using data on their devices, they are more comfortable in using much more data over WiFi. Of course here I am assuming carrier or public WiFi rather than what is privately used at home or in the office.

To a lot of extent this use of data is encouraged by the operators and the newer and more efficient technologies. Once a 100MB data cap was more than enough for most users while now, most users struggle with 1GB of data caps. WiFi is always an alternative, especially if the data usage is not counted in the allowance or included at a reduced rate.

An article published today, highlights this same points in case of students. Here is an extract from the article, which is available here in entirety:

Data captured by Actix shows that an average university campus will exhibit a daily population of up to 25,000 students who use mobile phones as their social hub.
While this population is much lower than city transport hubs and central business districts, it generates some of the highest levels of daily data and voice traffic.
A university campus will generate 60% more calls per person per day, and 388% more data per person per day compared to traffic in a business district.
Universities also have the highest levels of data upload, accounting for 30% of all data traffic at the location.
Neil Coleman, Director of Global Marketing at Actix, says: “While the ‘more for less’ mentality is hardly new, students as early adopters and power users of mobile provide an important gauge of future trends. Network operators need to accommodate these evolving attitudes to mobile use if they are to continue to deliver effective, profitable networks.”
Actix estimates the demand for data sessions on mobile networks will have increased by a factor of ten by 2015.
To accommodate their increasing data demands, students make greater effort to use Wi-Fi to secure the most data at the lowest cost.
While imperfect in terms of a seamless experience, Wi-Fi is perceived by students to be worthwhile when trying to keep costs down.
However this behaviour has unwelcome implications for mobile operators as they lose control of the customer experience and revenue opportunities when students hop off the network.
“Operators need to get to grips with Wi-Fi, either by finding a way to monetize it or by encouraging subscribers to stay on the mobile network with better quality service and realistic tariffs,” says Coleman. “With heavy uploads and two-way social traffic dominating the modern campus, operators have to prepare for an increasingly social customer base.”

The presentation from Analysis Mason is embedded below:

Related post:


  1. Manoj Das (via Het Net group on Linkedin)12 September 2013 at 08:11

    I agree with this. In another Linked in forum, members are discussing exactly the opposite. (after arrival of LTE, WiFi is going away). I am not sure which is to be believed. :-)

  2. Claus Hetting (via Het Net group on Linkedin)12 September 2013 at 08:12

    Interesting discussion! It's a tricky discussion because it also depends on how you define "offload". There can be no question that Wi-Fi traffic and the Wi-Fi ecosystem is growing a lot fast than mobile. Wi-Fi vendors (Cisco, Ruckus, etc.) are growing at a rate of 25-30% a year in sales - while mobile - well, it isn't.
    If you define "offload" as anything that moves from mobile to Wi-Fi I think yes, Wi-Fi offload is (relatively) growing a lot. But most of this traffic is being "offloaded" to home Wi-F or enterprise Wi-F networks not to public Wi-Fi networks (SP Wi-Fi). This is still a major issue for mobile carriers, because clearly it is disruptive that data traffic is moving away from mobile. The carriers should be concerned - and I think they are.
    If you define "offload" as anything that moves over to Wi-Fi as a result of a plan and business case to that end by the service providers, this is as yet not common (except for in a few distinct cases) - but I have no doubt that it will become increasingly popular.
    About Manoj's comment: I don't think we have reason to believe that Wi-Fi is "going away" in developed LTE markets. The reason for the reduction in Wi-Fi traffic - I believe - is because LTE networks are very attractive when they are unloaded and because they offer excellent service seamlessly to the smartphone users. With 3G networks generally being much lower quality, before LTE came into being, many users would actively hunt Wi-Fi. LTE has intermittently changed this in some markets. However, once traffic and load levels on LTE networks start increasing, the quality will also start to reduce. Meanwhile, as seamless Wi-Fi technology matures, Wi-Fi services will become as seamless as cellular - so that the traffic can (ideally) move freely to Wi-Fi networks. I think that will happen in the medium term at least.