Wi-Fi share of US mobile traffic continues to rise
Despite the advent of ‘unlimited’ mobile data plans, Wi-Fi’s share of phone data traffic in the US continues to rise. We’ve tracked this with a little help from Fierce, P3, and Spectrum Analytics.
In late January of this year we posted the Q4 2016 Wi-Fi share of phone data traffic for the US (see all the numbers & our analysis in this blog):
AT&T = 71%, TMo = 67%, Verizon = 69%, Sprint = 60%
Here’s the Q1 2017 data for from P3 & Strategy Analytics (see the report from FierceWireless):
AT&T = 72%, TMo = 71%, Verizon = 72%, Sprint = 67%
Thus the rise in Wi-Fi share of traffic is from 1 to 7 percentage points and – importantly – applies to all the US mobile carriers. Sprint is the outlier in this case with a jump of 7% in the course of just one quarter. Here’s the original 1Q 2017 data from P3:
So what does this mean?
First of all, the so-called ‘unlimited’ US mobile data plans have not stopped Wi-Fi’s share of phone traffic from growing. We’re guessing that the numbers would probably have been higher without unlimited plans, but this is conjecture. The data also shows that app-based time on Wi-Fi continues to rise and overall is more than 50% of total time spent accessing apps on phones.
Another notable fact – that nobody else seems to have commented on so far – is that the average mobile traffic per user per day has decreased from 4Q 2016 to 1Q 2017, in Verizon’s case from 76 MB to 58 MB. For the other carriers the drop in cellular data traffic is similar at least according to P3’s and Strategy Analytics’ data.
All of this once again puts to shame the frankly bizarre and misreported story that the death of Wi-Fi is imminent given unlimited plans and the beginning of LTE-U deployments. We’ve commented on it at length here.
Cellular decline continues. Wi-Fi on track for more growth.
US cellular market leader Verizon had a disappointing 1Q 2017 with a more than 7% revenue decline compared to last year. Meanwhile, mobile infrastructure leader Ericsson took another hit with an 11% decline in sales in the same quarter.
It would probably be stretching it to say that ‘offload’ to Wi-Fi is the cause of all this, but certainly the ubiquity of Wi-Fi (especially in the US) has poked a big hole in cellular traffic & profitability over the past couple of years. And there’s no sign that this is slowing down.