U.S. Android Users Are Extremely Frugal With Mobile Data

In short: Android users in the US access the web and associated services via Wi-Fi more often than mobile data irrespective of their carrier or plan type, according to new research conducted by Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix and released in partnership with FierceWireless. The figures, taken over the third quarter of this year, show that users with 'Pay as You Go' plans average just over 10.3GB of Wi-Fi access every month compared to approximately 1.15GB of mobile data. For consumers with limited data access afforded by their mobile provider, those figures bump up to slightly higher than 13.4GB and 1.6GB respectively. Users with unlimited plans, meanwhile, average around 6.1GB per month of mobile data access and over 14.2GB on Wi-Fi.

In terms of mobile operators, T-Mobile users access a total of 21.66GB of data every month on average but an average of 73-percent of that access is via Wi-Fi. That percentage remains for Sprint, who average a total of around 19.72GB per month, while the percentage for Verizon's customers jumps to 78-percent of data usage occurring over Wi-Fi and from a total usage that's just shy of 18.43GB. AT&T falls between those with around 75-percent of data traffic going over Wi-Fi connections from a total of approximately 16.27GB in data traffic.

Background: In general, the trend appears to follow that of previous research on the topic, with those on 'Pay as You Go' plans getting online through their carrier less often than those with monthly data limits or unlimited plans. Similarly, the networks of operators that are typically more aggressive with their respective unlimited plans - in this case, Sprint and T-Mobile - also tend to see more mobile data traffic. That's not entirely unexpected or surprising but a continuation of previous investigations into the split between Wi-Fi and mobile data in the country. Moreover, at least for those with unlimited mobile plans, that difference may be indicative of variations in network quality with regard to Wi-Fi and mobile connections. It may be the case that Wi-Fi connections are simply widely available or perform better in many instances. For example, when users are indoors at home or a business that offers Wi-Fi access, that connection may be more stable or faster due to network congestion and therefore preferred.

Impact: The implications of the latest numbers may be a continuation but that will almost certainly change relatively quickly with the advent and rollout of the incoming 5G networks. The technology is expected to fundamentally change the landscape of internet connectivity due to its vast improvements in terms of both latency and connection speed. More importantly, one of the predicted results of that suggests that 5G could become a framework for both mobile connections and home connections, blurring the lines between mobile and home internet.

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