Smartphone users rely on Wi-Fi for their primary data connection, with Wi-Fi data consumption two to 10 times that of cellular data consumption, according to  Mobidia Technology, Inc., a leading provider of mobile analytics, in collaboration with Informa, whitepaper, “Understanding Today’s Smartphone Users.

With that level of usage, it is not surprising that the Wi-Fi market has been dynamic over the past 12 months. Incumbents, start-ups and new entrants into the Wi-Fi space, as well as many mobile operators have been battling to establish and maintain market positions and connections to the smartphone users.

Yet, little data has been available on the Wi-Fi usage trends of smartphone users, especially their usage of private vs. public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Understanding these trends is critical for both Wi-Fi and cellular providers when making a wide range of strategic investment and business decisions within the mobile broadband marketplace.

Mobidia’s data on global Wi-Fi usage in January 2013 highlights the following trends:

  • Smartphone users continue to rely on Wi-Fi as their primary connection. With very few exceptions, such as Japan, users in most developed countries consume well over 80 percent, and often over 90 percent, of their total mobile data on Wi-Fi networks.
  • Smartphone users are heavily reliant on private or unmanaged, self-provisioned public Wi-Fi hotspots, as you would find in many small businesses, for their primary Wi-Fi connections. These Wi-Fi networks consistently accounted for well over 90 percent of the Wi-Fi traffic.
  • As a corollary, usage of managed, public hotspots, as would be offered by Wi-Fi network providers or mobile operators, consistently accounted for very little traffic across all countries analyzed. For example, traffic on these hotspots was just three percent and two percent of all Wi-Fi traffic in the leading Wi-Fi markets – the U.S. and the U.K., respectively.
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