Unlimited plans reshaping US Wi-Fi use - Mobile World Live

Unlimited plans reshaping US Wi-Fi use

20 APR 2018

US smartphone users are spending less time on Wi-Fi as adoption of unlimited plans grows, new data from OpenSignal suggested.

As unlimited plans gained steam between Q1 2017 and the beginning of this year, Wi-Fi usage across three of the four dominant US operators dropped, with AT&T and Verizon experiencing the largest declines (pictured below, click to enlarge).

Time spent on Wi-Fi among Verizon customers fell from 54 per cent to 51 per cent while usage at AT&T slid from 52 per cent to 49 per cent. T-Mobile US customers also used less Wi-Fi, surfing on unlicensed airwaves 41 per cent of the time compared with 43 per cent in Q1 2017. Usage at Sprint remained steady at 51 per cent.

OpenSignal said its most recent data covered a 90 day period starting 1 December 2017.

T-Mobile, whose customers use Wi-Fi the least, was among the first US operators to revive unlimited plans. AT&T and Verizon, which had higher rates of Wi-Fi usage, were among the last to offer unlimited options for their customers.

“As unlimited data plans in the US become more ubiquitous, customers appear less concerned about finding a free Wi-Fi connection, leaning more on their unlimited 3G and 4G networks for connectivity,” OpenSignal analyst Peter Boyland explained in a blog post.

A report from NPD Group released in December 2017 found users with data limits used Wi-Fi 8 per cent more than their unlimited counterparts. The study also noted consumers with unlimited plans used 67 per cent more data than consumers with data caps.

While US wireless users are leaning less on Wi-Fi, Boyland said it isn’t yet time to count the technology out.

Wi-Fi “still has an important role to play in mobile connectivity, particularly in data intensive activities like streaming video or gaming, while large numbers of small businesses such as coffee shops still rely on Wi-Fi to draw in customers”.


Diana Goovaerts

Diana is Mobile World Live's US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana came to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and CED Magazine, digital-only...

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