UK consumers rely on broadband connections to carry lots of their mobile data traffic
According to eMarketer estimates, there will be 20.7 million fixed broadband households in the UK in 2013, accounting for over three-quarters of total households. And broadband is vitally important to consumers, with many in the UK even factoring a decent connection speed into their home-buying purchase decision.
Increasingly, though, these fixed connections are being used to carry mobile data. A January study from Mobidia and Informa Telecoms & Media showed just how prevalent this practice was among Android smartphone users in the UK. The study split out Android data traffic carried across cellular networks, self-provisioned/private Wi-Fi and managed public Wi-Fi in various countries around the world. The UK topped the list when it came to traffic carried across private Wi-Fi, with this method accounting for 80.4% of total Android smartphone traffic in the country.
In the UK, smartphones and tablets are increasingly being used as media consumption devices, particularly for data-hungry media like video, which is often viewed in homes. For example, the proportion of BBC iPlayer requests coming from mobile devices in the country is increasing quarter on quarter. But mobile networks, at least historically, have not kept up with this demand. With 4G only very recently coming to the fore, the user experience of consuming this type of media “on the move” has been somewhat underwhelming. The solution for many consumers has been to rely on self-provisioned Wi-Fi .
Of course, the mobile landscape in the UK is in the midst of major changes, with network providers O2 and Vodafone joining EE to provide the country with 4G service. But coverage is still very limited, data limits on 4G plans remain an issue, and even basic mobile coverage remains patchy in many regions in the UK. As such, reliance on private Wi-Fi may continue to hold, for the short term at least.
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