Survey: Sluggish mobile networks, data caps driving Wi-Fi uptake

In a positive vote for Wi-Fi offloading, 84 percent of survey respondents who have Wi-Fi connectivity at home are proactively connecting their smartphones to it, according to Devicescape's first-quarter 2012 report on the Wi-Fi market.

The company said 91 percent of respondents report having Wi-Fi connectivity at home. After smartphones, laptops are the second-most Wi-Fi-connected device in the home, while tablets "are gaining ground in third place, with 51.1 percent of respondents connecting their unit to Wi-Fi," said Devicescape.

"It's becoming clear that most users connect to their home Wi-Fi in preference to using their 3G/4G connection," said Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape. "We expect this trend to use Wi-Fi whenever possible to continue given the mobile operators' moves to throttle and cap data plans."

The firm's recent survey of more than 2,000 users in its worldwide virtual Wi-Fi network also revealed that sluggish cellular networks sometimes drive mobile users to link their devices to potentially unsafe Wi-Fi networks. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed use their mobile device every day during the workweek for work purposes, whether in the office or out on business, and more than 62 percent of respondents cited slow 3G and 4G networks as the main reason they have at times connected to an unsecure Wi-Fi network so they could continue working off-site.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said their employers have no policies governing Wi-Fi use, which can make "companies vulnerable to criminal hackers gathering passwords, email messages and any other data"  being transmitted over the corporate network, Devicescape warned.

Tablets are expected to drive more Wi-Fi adoption. The firm said 36 percent of its survey respondents expect to buy a tablet in the near future and an additional 26 percent is considering it. "Such growth will make Wi-Fi a necessity, as our respondents indicate they plan to use their devices to browse the Internet, watch movies and videos, and gaming--straining 3G/4G networks," said Devicescape.

"Of those respondents considering a tablet purchase, the activities it would be used for vary, with Internet browsing leading the list. Data-intensive activities such as watching television or movies and listening to music, also ranked high, potentially contributing to clogged 3G/4G networks," according to the study.

In the case of current tablet users, Devicescape noted "almost 59 percent say Wi-Fi is their preferred method of connectivity for their tablets."

Fifty-six percent of respondents said mobile broadband capability is a feature they would want in a tablet. "Despite the proven benefits of Wi-Fi, the slight majority of our respondents still want the freedom and flexibility to connect to a 3G/4G network," said Devicescape.

The company, which uses public Wi-Fi hotspots to assemble a virtual offload network for mobile users, said its network grew 21 percent during 2012's first three months to end the period with 6.8 million curated hotspots. "The Wi-Fi offload rate achieved on the virtual network continues to exceed 40 percent depending on geography. This offload rate should continue to rise as more and more hotspots are added to the network," the company said.

California-based Devicescape is privately held by venture capital companies including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, Enterprise Partners and JAFCO.

For more:
- see this Devicescape release

Related articles:
Smith Micro: 84% of smartphone users support automatic Wi-Fi offloading
Infonetics: 70% of operators will deploy Wi-Fi for street coverage by 2013
Ericsson wants operators to control their small cells, Wi-Fi access points
Study: Easier Wi-Fi access could lure smartphones, tablet users
Devicescape: Unlimited-over-Wi-Fi offers are coming

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