Cable operators may see some slight reduction in subscriber numbers as wireless networks start to offer unlimited data. Light internet users might not see the need to have two different internet connections at home and on-the-go, so these people are the ones more likely to have their cable connections cut off. However, a mass exodus of cable internet subscribers or even subscribers from wireline internet service providers to mobile internet is not expected, given that using mobile internet as the only connection may not be cheap for heavy users. In the near term, it is expected that the proportion of people using wireless broadband to stabilize at 6% to 7%, with cable holding on to its dominant position. However, it is not clear if people relying on fixed wireless broadband, especially in some rural areas, are included in the percentage.
There are several reasons why in the near term, unlimited mobile data will not force cable internet to give up its dominance to wireless carriers inside the home. One of them is the limitation on mobile hotspot use. Home internet connects many devices within a house, including laptops, tablets, and IoT devices, so restrictions imposed by the wireless carriers on mobile hotspots can be quite limiting for home use. Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile provide 10 GB for mobile hotspot use before it is throttled, while AT&T does not provide any. Another reason is the slower, and generally less reliable, internet connections provided by the wireless carriers. Based on the latest OpenSignal study released in February, the fastest wireless internet connection averages around 20 Mbps. By comparison, US had an average fixed wireless broadband speed of 54.97 Mbps last June 2016 according to Ookla. The relatively slower internet speeds and the data caps imposed on mobile hotspot use may prevent certain use cases usually done with fixed internet like video streaming and uploading of large files.
In the near future, however, there are technological advancements that could shift business environments in favor to wireless carriers. The emergence of Gigabit LTE and 5G will help wireless carriers keep up with their cable and wireline rivals in terms of speed and capacity. The new wireless technology, 5G, promises data speeds around 100 times faster than 4G LTE can provide, with much lower latency and increased capacity, which is needed to support changing subscriber needs and the emergence of IoT devices. Fixed wireless broadband can also benefit massively from 5G, with increased data speeds provided to homeowners in rural areas rivaling those provided by fiber connections.