4G users willing to switch providers for free public Wi-Fi

A survey conducted by comms backbone supplier Arqiva reveals that two-thirds of 4G users would switch providers if offered inclusive Wi-Fi

Two-thirds of 4G subscribers would switch mobile network operators (MNOs) if they were offered public Wi-Fi access as an inclusive perk, according to a study by comms infrastructure and media services supplier Arqiva.

In the report Public Wi-Fi in a 4G World, conducted on Arqiva’s behalf by Analysys Mason, 2,000 UK consumers were quizzed on their perception and usage of public Wi-Fi networks, and the survey found that the advent of widespread 4G availability in UK towns and cities had not dampened appetite for public Wi-Fi.

The study revealed that three-quarters of 4G subscribers still used public Wi-Fi networks for internet connectivity.

In fact, Arqiva reported that 4G subscribers – who the industry believes in general consume far more data than 3G subscribers – place a higher monetary value on public Wi-Fi connectivity than those who have not yet upgraded, and are more likely to head for pastures new if offered public Wi-Fi in their contracts.

“Revealing the clear value consumers still attach to public Wi-Fi provision, the results offer some interesting insights for MNOs,” said Nicolas Ott, MD of telecoms at Arqiva.

“Aside from indicating a potential churn opportunity, they also named mobile operators as the most obvious provider of public Wi-Fi networks (59%). Operators should therefore look at the connectivity bundle packages they can offer their customers in order to further increase brand loyalty and sales.”

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Analysys Mason research director Tom Rebbeck added: “The research shows that consumers see public Wi-Fi networks as a complement to cellular connectivity. The move to 4G doesn’t seem to reduce the demand for public Wi-Fi access – it may even reinforce the demand for high-speed networks of all types.”

Wi-Fi versus cellular

Arqiva’s findings lend weight to a widely-held view among Wi-Fi stakeholders that tariffs which limit data downloads, and the expensive monthly costs of an all-you-can-eat data plan, mean 4G subscribers are far more likely to switch onto Wi-Fi whenever they can.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, held earlier this month, Ruckus Wireless technical marketing manager Dave Wright told Computer Weekly that 80% of data delivered to 4G-capable devices was going over Wi-Fi networks instead of mobile networks.

“Wi-Fi has gone from an amenity to an expectation,” said Wright. “There is a generational component to that as well, around more cost-conscious millennials.”

The GSMA took an opposing view, saying 50-50 was probably a more accurate split between 4G data and Wi-Fi data.

“Wi-Fi is part of the operators’ business models,” said Herman Schepers, senior director of the GSMA Spectrum4All campaign, “but it will never be a carrier-quality network.”

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