WiFi Dominates the Mobile Experience

It’s been a good week for interesting reports coming out of regulatory agencies. Earlier this week, ComCom NZ released a report measuring how much of the regulated wholesale price for fixed was passed on to consumers (spoiler alert: in NZ, most of it.) Today, Ofcom releases a report on consumer mobile experience. It’s a short document with real nuggets inside. I encourage you to read it, but here are my takeaways in the context of the eternal discussion of fixed vs. mobile (instead of fixed and mobile, but there you have it…)

  • 69% of data transfers occur over wifi networks. This should not come as a surprise considering most people have home wifi and their mobile phone autoconnects to it. But it does highlight how important wifi (and therefore fixed broadband) is to the mobile consumer experience;
  • Average throughput is dependent on network usage, but the variability isn’t that high. However, failed data sessions are strongly correlated to network usage. This means that while a speed test might not be overly affected by high concurrent usage of the mobile network, customer experience clearly is;
  • Actual speed performance is around 3Mbps on average. This is of course far from the maximum speeds advertised by operators, but shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise: consumers after all use what their apps need. More interesting is that average performance on WiFi far outpaces average performance on 4G for video viewing, and is a little higher for average browsing;
  • Finally, average session lengths over WiFi are significantly higher than over 4G, which tells us that most customers know when they’re on the clock and when they’re not. In other words metered mobile offers (even with large data packages) still cause customers to refrain themselves. 

In the context of the infamous fixed vs mobile (and fixed mobile substitution) frameworks, consumer usage shows that customers know the difference and are probably not willing to go mobile only. It also shows that even though fixed is far from at its peak in terms of performance (certainly in Britain) it still delivers a better customer experience than mobile networks. Advertised speeds again are probably to blame for this apparently counter-intuitive result.

In other words, stop burying fixed networks under the rubble of the next mobile revolution: if 4G didn’t kill copper based fixed networks it’s unlikely that 5G will kill fiber based fixed networks.