Wi-Fi traffic outpacing cellular

Total data usage on smartphones is much higher than generally reported throughout the industry, according to new research.

Wi-Fi data consumption exceeds cellular by a factor of two-to-one, and Wi-Fi accounts for 70% of all smartphone-originated traffic, according to a new study from Mobidia Technology, a provider of device-centric, mobile data solutions, and analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media.

The research, released at Mobile World Congress, shows that across the global smartphone user base sampled, 91% of smartphone subscribers use Wi-Fi for data usage purposes. Also, for an overwhelming majority of smartphone users, Wi-Fi is employed as the primary data connection of choice.

“We were quite surprised with the findings,” said Mobidia vice president of marketing, Chris Hill. “Not only did we find that data usage on smartphones was much higher than the typical 100 to 500 megabytes average monthly usage that is often cited, but we also found that Wi-Fi usage often outpaced mobile usage by as much as six-to-one in some countries.”

The data states that measurement of cellular-only usage patterns is only part of the picture when it comes to how consumers are using data. In fact, Informa’s analysis reveals that a cellular-only measurement of user demand can understate smartphone-originated traffic by a factor of several multiples in the world’s most advanced Wi-Fi markets.

“Building small screen access revenues into a $100 billion annual market is already a considerable achievement, but today’s mobile data market is arguably still in the early stages of development,” said Thomas Wehmeier, Informa principal analyst.

“Indeed, mobile data pricing models prevalent in the market today lag years behind the advanced segmentation seen in the mobile voice market. Fulfilling the industry’s future growth potential by driving smartphone and data adoption into today’s untapped customer segments will require operators to build an in-depth understanding of all aspects of customer behavior in order to deploy sustainable and profitable pricing models,” he added.

Informa and Mobidia collaborated to analyze data collected in January 2012 from tens of thousands of global smartphone users to determine data-usage trends. The data sample represents smartphone users from more than 600 mobile operators worldwide.