Unlimited Plans Lowering US WiFi Usage In 2018: OpenSignal

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About a year after T-Mobile reintroduced unlimited plans and prompted the rest of the wireless industry to follow suit, Wi-Fi usage across the United States is dropping in a noticeable manner, new data obtained by OpenSignal suggests. Over the 90-day period starting last December, the amount of time both Verizon and AT&T subscribers spent with their phones connected to a Wi-Fi network declined by three percentage points, with AT&T's customers now spending more than half of their time on the company's cellular network instead of being connected to a router.

As T-Mobile beat the rest of the telecom industry to the punch with unlimited data plans, the proportion of time its users were spending on Wi-Fi networks already started declining before everyone else's did, with that metric now amounting to 41-percent over the observed period, two percentage points down annually. Sprint is the only wireless carrier in the country that hasn't experienced an observable change in the amount of time its smartphone subscribers spend connected to Wi-Fi in recent months, as per the same study. Refer to the banner below for a visual representation of OpenSignal's latest findings.

The unlimited race has been taking a toll on the average 4G LTE speeds offered by the stateside wireless industry, though all major players started recovering earlier this year, as per the same research firm. The prevalence of unlimited plans is directly leading to higher consumer consumption, with the current state of the market placing a large strain on network operators that isn't likely to be completely addressed until the fifth generation of mobile networks is commercialized on a national level. 5G is promising unprecedented latencies and capacities, with the latter point being particularly important for improving the manner in which the U.S. wireless industry handles the consistently growing volumes of cellular traffic. All four national carriers should begin commercializing 5G by early 2019 and have it available on a countrywide level come 2020, as per their recent estimates.

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