The August 19th edition of Mobile World Live featured a survey from EE saying “LTE is knocking public WiFi usage.” The article went on to say that WiFi usage among LTE users has decreased by 37 percent since April. At a high level, this makes sense. Since LTE has speeds that make it equivalent to a mobile on-ramp to the internet, and assuming a relatively flat monthly data rate, then why not just stay on LTE if it’s fast enough and if it costs the same? You would too, right?
First of all, I think it will depend on what you are doing. If you are watching a football match or anything data intensive, WiFi may make sense, since the bandwidth would be more reliable. If you are just checking Twitter, it may make sense to stay on LTE, depending on how many people you follow, since updating Twitter could be data intensive for some.
This brings me to my second point about how it will also depend on your data plan. Many customers will get the cheapest data plan they can. This is an incentive to offload to WiFi whenever they have the chance. For example, my kids, who are big smartphone users, certainly would take the time to use WiFi, since they are very aware of their monthly cellular Mbit usage.
Irrespective of offload to WiFi, if the increase in mobile data occurs as many expect, then this nirvana of using LTE for everything will start to erode as the subscriber experience starts to erode. As more and more smartphones enter the fray, then more and more people will start to use LTE, and then the the LTE networks will become just as congested as the 3G networks are today.
If users still don’t want to use WiFi, that’s fine. But the LTE networks of tomorrow will clearly be more crowded than they are today. So, if the new generation of user is lazy and doesn’t want to switch to WiFi, it puts more burden on the mobile carriers to solve congestion issues. In that case, the mobile carriers would need to deploy data and video optimization techniques such as caching and compression to keep their customers satisfied.