4G, wifi drive out-of-home data boom – report

4G and public wifi networks now account for approximately 35.6 petabytes of data consumed by the UK public when out-of-home every month, according to a report by UK government advisory firm Broadband Stakholder Group (BSG). The study found that data consumed out of the home accounts for roughly 5% of all data used in the UK, with residential broadband generating approximately 650 petabytes per month.

While fixed network access in the UK accounts for approximately 95% of all data usage, the widespread growth of LTE subscriptions will likely see a surge in out-of-home data consumption. According to Ovum’s World Cellular Information Service, LTE subscription numbers in the UK currently read 11.873 million users. That number is forecast to grow by almost 100% in the next two years, with a predicted LTE subscriber total of 21.073 million by December 2016.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is working on the advancement of Hotspot 2.0, a certification programme which aims to enable more sophisticated connectivity for mobile devices in wifi hotspots. The alliance claims the new, improved Hotspot 2.0 (also known as Passpoint) will now deliver a more streamlined method of creating new user accounts and connecting wifi-only devices to public wifi hotspots.

As such, with the gradual phasing out of cumbersome landing pages for wifi hotspot log-ins, data consumption on public wifi networks is set to increase further. BSG claims public wifi currently accounts for roughly 11.87 petabytes of data. Mobile video appears to be the primary driver of data consumption, accounting for 54% of fixed, and 43% of mobile traffic.

The report also identified the four primary areas which restrict the growth of out-of-home data, stating: “Firstly, there are natural limits to the size and technical limitations to the battery life of devices. Secondly, many consumers are influenced in their usage by the level of their data allowance – which is rarely exceeded, regardless of its size. Thirdly, there is the bandwidth constraint, and variability, of mobile networks which has a significant impact on the performance of demanding applications. Finally, there is the challenge in accessing WiFi networks, where there is a need to manually log-in.”

“It is generally accepted that demand for internet services out of the home will grow rapidly but relatively little work has examined why and how this growth will take place,” said Matthew Evans, CEO of BSG. “Addressing this evidence gap was our primary motivation in commissioning this research. The recommendations we make in the report will help industry expand coverage, improve the resilience of the network and further boost user experience.”

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