Cellular's reliance on Wi-Fi offloading gained momentum, says wefi

Cellular carriers now offload data traffic to Wi-Fi in nearly 80 percent of U.S. states, an increase of 2 to 3 percent compared to results from the fourth quarter of 2013, according to wefi's latest Wi-Fi analytics report, which focused on trends from 2014's first quarter.

The provider of Wi-Fi network management and a hotspot database said it also found that cellular operators offloaded 82 percent more data to Wi-Fi in the eastern United States than in the western portion of the country. The insights were gleaned from data gathered from millions of mobile devices in the United States enabled with software from wefi, which used to write its name WeFi.

"Consumers have come to recognize that Wi-Fi connectivity presents a superior experience compared to consuming content via cellular networks. This, coupled with devices that automatically sense and log users into Wi-Fi networks when they are present, contributes to the growing use of Wi-Fi and the overall rise in Wi-Fi offloading nationwide," the firm said.

Halifax, Va.-based wefi said its research revealed that Wi-Fi and cellular networks picked up data speed during the first quarter of 2014 vs. the same period one year earlier, based on the average of measurements from states with the top five fastest speeds. Specifically, Wi-Fi networks overall were 27 percent faster in 2014's first three months, showing an average speed of 5.3 Mbps. Massachusetts, Maryland, Iowa, Illinois and Connecticut clocked in with the fastest Wi-Fi connections for the period.

Cellular networks also showed a year-over-year 62 percent speed improvement during the first quarter of this year, exhibiting an average speed of 4.7 Mbps. One might presume this reflects the rollout of LTE by all four national operators. The states of New Hampshire, Missouri, Maine, Louisiana and Kansas had the fastest cellular connections for the quarter, wefi said.

The report also found that ESPN, Instagram, Netflix, Spotify and Vine maintained their positions as the top five most downloaded applications. Interestingly, overall user speeds for Snapchat sessions were much faster than user speeds for Facebook. "For example, in Manhattan, users of Snapchat experienced a nearly 106 percent increase in Mbps whereas Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) user speeds fell by nearly 81 percent," wefi said.

"Facebook has been optimized for easy sharing of rich media which entails the uploading and downloading of larger content files. This requires more bandwidth which may affect users' speeds," said David Fishman, wefi CMO. "In contrast, content shared on Snapchat is much smaller in size and once viewed, is not stored, requiring less bandwidth and resulting in faster user speeds."

As wefi's research indicates, cellular operators are increasingly offloading their licensed network data traffic to Wi-Fi as a solution for easing cellular network congestion. A new report from Senza Fili Consulting stated that Wi-Fi as well as small cells "are crucial to providing the increase in capacity density that operators need and subscribers expect."

According to Senza Fili, employing small cells and Wi-Fi enable operators to slash their per-bit total cost of ownership (TCO) by at least half. "Per-bit TCO shows that Wi-Fi added to small cells greatly improves the small-cell business case, especially for 3G small cells," the firm said.

It noted that even at low densities, LTE small cells and Wi-Fi quickly take on a dominant role relative to macro cells in transporting mobile traffic. Senza Fili recommends operators collocate infrastructure for small cells and Wi-Fi to increase efficiency and further slash per-bit costs.

For more:
- see this wefi release
- see this Senza Fili webpage

Related articles:
Madden: The small cell market takes a coffee break
Global Wi-Fi hotspots to pass 10.5M mark in 2018, says ABI
Deloitte: Two-thirds of U.S. consumers prefer Wi-Fi over cellular
Tier 1 carriers expect 75% of their small cells to include Wi-Fi by 2018

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