Broadband is Now More Complicated, for Everybody

By Gary Kim July 23, 2012

According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development statistics, there were 85.6 million fixed network broadband connections in use in the United States in December 2011.

 There also were 235.2 million wireless broadband connections in use at the same time, for a total of 320.8 million broadband connections. That has obvious implications for service providers, investors, end users and regulators alike, as it means any effort to measure broadband subscribers, access speeds and prices is much more complicated than it once was.

Mobile is the big change, as mobile broadband already represents 73.3 percent of all U.S. broadband connections. That is not to say fixed and mobile broadband are full substitutes for each other. Potential bandwidth, price per bit and location are key dimensions on which mobile broadband and fixed broadband are distinct products.

But as tablets show a historic shift in what people are doing, and want to do, using “computing” devices, people are showing historic new patterns in terms of how they want to consume Internet applications and content.

Though the trend is most clear in developing regions, where a mobile device is the primary way people use Internet apps, it increasingly is the case that a “small screen” smartphone or feature phone is the way many people are choosing to use the Internet.

Though in many cases mobile and fixed usage modes are complementary, there is growing evidence that many people prefer to use mobile broadband as their primary or “only” way of using the Internet.

Since at least 2010, evidence has been growing that Hispanics and blacks prefer to use mobile devices for Internet access. Some 17 percent of mobile phone owners do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer or other device, Pew Internet & American Life Project reports.

Most do so for convenience, but for some their phone is their only option for online access, the study suggests.

Moreover, 31 percent of these current mobile Internet users say that they mostly go online using their mobile phone, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

A 2010 study by the Pew project, found that 51 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of blacks use their phones to access the Internet, compared with 33 percent of white Americans.

A greater percentage of whites than blacks and Latinos still have broadband access at home, but laptop ownership is now about even for all these groups, after black laptop ownership jumped from 34 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2010, according to Pew researchers.

The point is that policy makers now must account for the growing mobile preference when assessing the state of broadband access. Service providers have to decide where and how much to invest in fixed versus mobile networks and services. Investors have to make choices about where profit might lie. And end users have to make choices about which forms of access make the most sense.

None of those issues are as easy as they once were, which, arguably, is a good thing in some ways. End users have much more choice.

But some issues are harder, such as the challenge of crafting policies that promote consumer welfare, or making long-term decisions about where to invest new capital.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Editor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Microsoft Research Project Allows for Inexpensive 3D Scanning from a Smartphone

By: Christopher Mohr    8/27/2015

It is now possible to perform 3D scanning from a smartphone, without additional hardware or an Internet connection, thanks to a new Microsoft Research…

Read More

Amazon's Scaled Back Consumer Device Efforts, Dash Button, and More

By: Paula Bernier    8/27/2015

Word is that Amazon is scaling way back on its consumer devices efforts, having let go of dozens of Lab126 engineers who worked on its Fire phone, acc…

Read More

The 4K War is Brewing, but Don't Expect a Crowned Winner

By: Special Guest    8/27/2015

The hype around 4K Ultra HD video is growing and we're seeing it gain traction in real ways. From the NFL Network and CBS using 4K cameras to capture …

Read More

Wallet Wars Part 2: Thanks to EMV, the Force is with Mobile Wallets

By: Special Guest    8/26/2015

In December 2015, when "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits movie theatres across the U.S., a very different type of force will 'awaken' the mobile wal…

Read More

Major Automakers Forge Alliance to Combat Cyberattackers

By: Joe Rizzo    8/25/2015

If you take a few minutes to think about what hackers go after, you'll realize that it is anything that has an Internet connection. Thanks to the Inte…

Read More