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More Smartphone Users Access the Internet via Wi-Fi


comScore released the results from a comparative analysis of mobile and Wi-Fi Internet usage on smartphones in the United States and United Kingdom. They studied the share of unique smartphones connecting to mobile operator and Wi-Fi networks to provide insight into Internet connection patterns across markets.

Among its findings, the market analysis shows a significantly higher percentage of Apple iPhones than Google Android phones connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi networks.

"With the rise in adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices, network operators have seen a surge in mobile web activity and face new challenges in keeping up with data demands while maintaining their quality of service," said Serge Matta, President of Operator and Mobile Solutions at comScore.

As bandwidth usage increases and the wireless radio spectrum becomes scarce, all members of the ecosystem should understand the different dynamics between the use of mobile and Wi-Fi networks -- to optimize the available limited resources.

A U.S. analysis of Wi-Fi and mobile Internet usage reveals that 71 percent of all unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks to connect to the Internet, while only 32 percent of unique Android mobile phones used both types of connections.

A further analysis of this pattern of behavior in the U.K. shows consistent results, as 87 percent of unique iPhones used both mobile and Wi-Fi networks for web access compared to a lower 57 percent of Android phones.

Further analysis revealed that 69 percent of total unique smartphones in the U.K. browsed the Internet via both mobile and Wi-Fi network connections, compared to just 38 percent of U.S unique smartphones.

U.S. smartphones on the AT&T network were more likely to use Wi-Fi than those on other major operator networks -- likely due to AT&T having both a greater iPhone market share and the largest Wi-Fi hotspot network in America.

In the U.K., smartphones on the Vodafone, Telefonica and Orange networks were more likely to use Wi-Fi than were others on other U.K. operators.

"The difference in mobile and Wi-Fi network usage across the U.S. and U.K. suggests that there are a few factors at play affecting Wi-Fi utilization rates," said Matta. "In the U.K., the scarcity of unlimited data plans and higher incidence of smartphone pre-paid contracts with a pay-as-you-go data model likely contributes to data offloading among users wanting to economize their mobile usage."

In addition, the current lack of high-speed data networks in the U.K. might also lead users to seek out higher bandwidth capacity on Wi-Fi networks.

In the U.S., the increased availability of LTE, 4G and other high-speed data networks currently make it less necessary for smartphone users to offload, but it’s also possible that the diminishing availability of unlimited cellular data plans will eventually push more usage to Wi-Fi.

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