Report: performance outweighs cost savings, privacy for Wi-Fi offloading

According to a new survey of more than 500 mobile consumers, conducted by uSamp, a market research firm, and commissioned by wireless and mobility solutions provider Smith Micro Software, Inc., 95% of smartphone users would leverage Wi-Fi if it enabled better mobile data performance; 88% would prefer to access Wi-Fi networks if it reduced their monthly phone bill.



According to a new survey of more than 500 mobile consumers, conducted by uSamp, a market research firm, and commissioned by wireless and mobility solutions provider Smith Micro Software, Inc., 95% of smartphone users would leverage Wi-Fi if it enabled better mobile data performance; 88% would prefer to access Wi-Fi networks if it reduced their monthly phone bill.


Additionally, while 82% of respondents want to use their mobile device as a hotspot, almost one-third don’t due to cost or usability issues. Onsite interviews of CTIA attendees last week indicated similar sentiments about smartphone hotspot usage, says Smith Micro (Aliso Viego, Calif., USA).


Slow network speeds caused by mobile network congestion directly impact the average mobile consumer. This problem is evident in the uSamp / Smith Micro survey results, as 84% of respondents would allow a carrier to provide automatic Wi-Fi connections in exchange for better device performance or a lower phone bill. These survey results complement those found by a Wi-Fi Alliance study, released at CTIA 2012, which state that 72% of smartphone and tablet owners would be willing to pay carriers for access to Wi-Fi hotspots. In the uSamp / Smith Micro survey, when participants were asked about allowing carriers to install software that enabled automatic network transitions, only 2% of participants indicated that privacy would be a consideration.


Other survey results indicate that tablet users in particular desire Wi-Fi access in their devices. Ninety-six percent of Wi-Fi tablet users want access to the Mobile Internet using their smartphones, and 59% are willing to pay to use their phone in that capacity. This highlights the importance of making it easy for consumers to use their smartphones as mobile hotspots, especially when 90% of tablets sold in 2012 were Wi-Fi only and not 3G / 4G capable, says Smith Micro.


“We were surprised when we asked attendees at CTIA, a leading wireless industry event, about their mobile hotspot usage and many didn’t know what a mobile hotspot was or how to access it on their phones,” said Carla Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing at Smith Micro Software, Inc. “Our online survey results highlight consumer demand for easy access to the best network available, and yet with all of the wireless access points available, getting connected is still not as convenient as it should be.”


As mobile data usage surges and network congestion increases, unauthorized tethering applications can exacerbate this problem, negatively impacting overall network performance. While 54% of users surveyed have used their mobile device’s hotspot capabilities, over half do not pay their carrier for the capability, and instead opt for third-party free or paid tethering apps to connect. Subscription-based tethering plans may be driving consumers to these over-the-top options, and survey respondents indicated a desire for more flexible data service plans. For example, 37% of respondents indicated they would prefer a mobile data plan that offered a flat-fee per use based on the type of application used versus paying for Gigabytes used.