AT&T's customers generate 80% of smartphone, tablet connections on its Wi-Fi hotspots

AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) disclosure of key performance indicators from its thriving Wi-Fi business shed little light on just how much the operator's smartphone customers use its public Wi-Fi networks for offloading data traffic from the cellular network. But a company executive claims AT&T mobile device customers are active users of the company's Wi-Fi hotspots.

"All of our smartphones are sold with Wi-Fi capability. We know that our users are aware of the Wi-Fi availability and the AT&T brand on our hotspots. We know demand is coming from our customers. They appreciate just being able to connect everywhere," Aaron Coleman, director of product management, for AT&T Wi-Fi Services, told FierceBroadbandWireless.

AT&T provides Wi-Fi hotspots in over 100 countries around the world.

Last week, AT&T announced that it recorded more than 2.7 billion connections to its Wi-Fi network during 2012, more than double the number recorded in 2011. The operator also reported three times more mobile device traffic, over 5.2 billion MB, was exchanged on its Wi-Fi network in 2012.

Further, the carrier said 40 percent more Wi-Fi network connections were made in 2012's fourth quarter by smartphone and tablet devices compared with the same period one year earlier. Those connections are not limited to AT&T customers, who are nonetheless responsible for much of the activity.

"About 80 percent of those connections are attributed to AT&T Mobility customers," said Coleman, though he declined to share specific usage numbers.

Despite the fact that AT&T mobile customers have unlimited access to the company's public managed hotspots with usage not counting against their mobile data plans, the vast majority of AT&T customers do not use the company's public hotspots to offload data traffic from their cellular devices. AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson said in a June 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed that AT&T mobile customers only offload about 1 percent of their total traffic to the operator's Wi-Fi network, which has grown to more than 32,000 hotspots currently.

FierceBroadbandWireless asked Coleman if the past year's rise in smartphone and tablet device connections to AT&T's Wi-Fi network corresponded to a comparable increase in the percentage of mobile data offloading by AT&T customers who use the carrier's Wi-Fi hotspots in lieu of its cellular network.

"We're not really sure what that number is now. We did double our traffic in the past year. You're got AT&T users on the network and non-AT&T users on the network. We have a number of alliances with other partners," he said.

Most AT&T smartphones automatically connect to AT&T hotspots. However, other AT&T mobile device customers must manually find the attwireless SSID and log onto the network.

A recent report from Mobidia and Informa Telecoms & Media found very limited use of managed public hotspots--as would be offered by Wi-Fi network providers or mobile operators--by smartphone users, who tend to use private and self-provisioned Wi-Fi networks instead.

For more:
- see this AT&T release
- view this chart (PDF)

Related articles:
Boingo exec: Enhanced cellular/Wi-Fi roaming to launch commercially in 2014
AT&T notches 2.7B Wi-Fi connections in 2012
AT&T, others pass first hurdle in WBA's global Wi-Fi roaming effort
AT&T's numbers show carriers' public Wi-Fi networks may not be justifiable
Operators see Wi-Fi as a critical differentiator, but split on business models

Suggested Articles

Skeptics say the risk of a network outage is too high to make 5G remote surgery possible but 5G experts say it’s not as farfetched as it sounds.

Celona is jumping head first into the CBRS arena, targeting enterprises that want a private LTE or 5G network.

One of the players in CBRS that hasn’t been making a lot of noise about its role as a SAS provider—until now—is Amdocs, which once was known for its wireless…