Wi-Fi Offload Represents 66 to 80 Percent of Mobile Data Consumption

By Gary Kim January 02, 2014

By 2016, perhaps 80 percent of all mobile device data consumption might happen over some offloaded network mechanism, according to Wik Consult.

In 2013, offloaded mobile data might represent nearly 66 percent of all data consumed by a mobile device.

Some will point to such trends as drivers for deployment of small cells and carrier Wi-Fi. But those trends also show how unlicensed spectrum has grown to become part of the “carrier network,” even when no formal business relationship exists between a particular mobile service provider and the provider of the Wi-Fi service.

A study conducted by Wik Consult suggests that more unlicensed spectrum has to be part of the total solution for faster broadband. Additional licensed spectrum might be the focus of most of the attention, for mobile operators.

But even if additional unlicensed spectrum primarily underpins different revenue models, customer segments and applications for some ISPs and application providers, expanded unlicensed spectrum also will play a role in augmenting mobile network coverage.

To an extent once not considered, fixed networks and end user networks are “part of the mobile network” in a functional sense, even when there are no direct business relationships between those users and networks.

“The volume of traffic that is already being off-loaded, chiefly to Wi-Fi in the home, already exceeds that of the mobile network, and can be expected to grow even faster as well,” report authors say.

"Multiple sources indicate that as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of Android smart phone and tablet mobile traffic is already being off-loaded to private Wi-Fi, within the end-user’s home," the authors of a study on mobile traffic offload say. "Particularly noteworthy is a new study by Informa and Mobidia that finds that at least two-thirds of mobile data for Android phones is already being off-loaded to “self-provisioned” Wi-Fi, which equates roughly to private Wi-Fi."

The report suggests that service providers gain when users offload traffic because they do not have to invest so much in network facilities. The authors estimate such savings in 2012 for the EU-27 nations to be as high as 35 billion euro, and the projected savings in 2016 as high as 200 billion euro.

“Based on our current assessment, drawing on all of these sources and others, we now believe that a majority of traffic that would otherwise be present on the macro cellular traffic is already being off-loaded, primarily to Wi-Fi in the home,” says Wik Consult. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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