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Small Cells, DAS & Het-Nets

U.S. WiFi Offload Traffic Forecast, 2012 - 2017: Relief for Mobile Data Networks?

Once a pariah among wireless data networks, WiFi has emerged as a legitimate “other network” option for mobile operators. Granted, subscribers have to be within about 300 feet of a WiFi hotspot, or within a metro WiFi hotzone, but carriers are looking hard at “WiFi Offload” as a way to not only provide their customers with high-­quality, reliable wireless data, but also to relieve some of the congestion on their 3G mobile data networks.

This report forecasts the amount of data traffic that is generated by mobile devices and then offloaded to WiFi. The foundation of the iGR’s WiFi Offload forecast is iGR’s mobile data traffic forecast, which is also presented, in part, in this report.

The categories of WiFi offload covered in this report include:

  • 1. WiFi Only: This is data traffic that occurs on a WiFi network outside of the home or office on WiFi-only devices. iGR’s model estimates that in 2012, a total of about 0.38 gigabytes (GB) each month per active device among that subset of mobile connections that have WiFi-only devices (and use them outside the home or office). This is the smallest sub-set of WiFi offload usage.
  • 2. WiFi Offload (User Driven): A subscriber/end user who chooses a WiFi connection (except one inside the home or office) rather than use their 3G/4G mobile broadband connection. If the non-home/non-work WiFi network did not exist, this traffic would have gone over the mobile operator’s cellular data network. iGR’s model estimates that in 2012, a total of about 0.41 GB per month per active device was offloaded to WiFi. This is the predominant form of WiFi offload today.
  • 3. WiFi Offload (Carrier Driven): This is user-generated data traffic that the operator diverts from its 3G/4G RAN to a carrier-managed WiFi network. As such, iGR counts this traffic as a fraction of mobile data since this is data the subscriber would have used regardless of the type of RAN they are on. (Note that this definition may change over time, as the actual technology required to “hotswitch” the end user from 3G/4G to WiFi becomes more transparent to the end user.) iGR’s model estimates that in 2012, a total of about 0.04 GB per month per active device was offloaded to WiFi. This type of WiFi offload is not widespread today, but iGR believes it will become more common over time.

Key Questions Answered

  • What is WiFi?
  • Where is the WiFi standard headed?
  • How is WiFi used?
  • What is WiFi offload?
  • What is the difference between user-driven WiFi offload and carrier-­driven WiFi offload?
  • What are some of the key standards efforts associated with WiFi offload?
  • What are the potential benefits associated with WiFi offload?
  • What are the potential issues associated with WiFi offload?
  • What is WiFi only? How is it commonly used?
  • How much WiFi offload traffic is expected through 2016?
  • How much WiFi only traffic is expected through 2016?
  • How do the two different types of WiFi data traffic inter-­relate?
  • How does WiFi offload usage split out by venue?

Who Should Read

  • Mobile operators, including those with WiFi networks
  • Device OEMs
  • Content providers and distributors
  • Cable MSOs and those offering WiFi services
  • Financial analysts and investors.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Executive Summary
  • Methodology
    • iGR’s Usage Categories
  • WiFi Use at Home
    • Use of WiFi at Home
    • When Are Devices Typically Used
  • Assumptions and Trends Around WiFi Use
    • At-Home Broadband Activities
    • Activities while On‐the-Go
  • WiFi Business Models
    • Types of WiFi Networks
    • WiFi Business Models
  • WiFi Offload
    • Why offload?
    • Enabling WiFi Offload
      • Passpoint
      • ANDSF
      • Partnerships
    • Adoption of Offload
    • Benefits of WiFi Offload
    • Potential Issues with WiFi Offload
  • WiFi Offload Connections Forecast
    • WiFi Offload Connections Forecast
  • WiFi Offload Data Usage
    • Total Data Offload
  • WiFi Offload Data Usage by Venue
    • Carrier-driven WiFi Offload by Venue
    • User-driven WiFi Offload by Venue
    • WiFi-only Offload by Venue
  • Demographic Profile of U.S. Consumer Respondents
  • Definitions
    • General
    • Device Types
    • Services
    • Network Technology
  • About iGR
    • Disclaimer

List of Tables

  • Table 1: Broadband Usage Among Survey Respondents, 2013
  • Table 2: Locations Where WiFi and 3G/4G Typically Used on Mobile Device, U.S.
  • Table 3: Time Periods when Device Usage Occurs
  • Table 4: Need for Speed
  • Table 5: Improving Non-Home/work/school WiFi Networks
  • Table 6: Devices Present In Household, U.S.
  • Table 7: At‐Home Broadband Activities By Device,
  • Table 8: At‐Home Broadband Activities By Device, 2013
  • Table 9: Difference in Activities – Wired versus On-the-Go
  • Table 10: How Respondents Connect While On‐the-¬Go
  • Table 11: How do you connect while on-the-go? (indexed)
  • Table 12: WiFi-based Offload Connections per Month
  • Table 13: Data Use per Offload Connection, GB/Month
  • Table 14: Total Amount of Data Offloaded to WiFi per Category, PB / Month
  • Table 15: Carrier‐Driven WiFi Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Table 16: User‐Driven WiFi Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Table 17: WiFi Only Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Table 18: Respondent Age
  • Table 19: Respondent Gender
  • Table 20: Respondent Ethnic Background
  • Table 21: Respondent Annual Household Income
  • Table 22: Respondent Level of Education
  • Table 23: Age of Children in Household
  • Table 24: Respondent Region
  • Table 25: Respondent Marital Status

List of Charts and Figures

  • Figure A: WiFi Offload in Context (Total PB per Month), 2012-2017
  • Figure 1: Broadband Usage Among Survey Respondents, 2013
  • Figure 2: Presence of WiFi at Home, U.S.
  • Figure 3: Locations Where WiFi and 3G/4G Typically Used on Mobile Device, U.S.
  • Figure 4: Time Periods when Device Usage Occurs
  • Figure 5: Need for Speed
  • Figure 6: Improving Non-Home/work/school WiFi Networks
  • Figure 8: At‐Home Broadband Activities
  • Figure 9: Difference in Activities – Wired versus On-the-Go
  • Figure 10: How Respondents Connect While On‐the-Go
  • Figure 11: WiFi-based Offload Connections per Month
  • Figure 12: Offload perConnection, GB/Month
  • Figure 13: Gap between Mobile Data with and without Offload, PB/Month
  • Figure 14: Total Amount of Data Offloaded to WiFi per Category, PB / Month
  • Figure 15: Carrier-Driven WiFi Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Figure 16: User-Driven WiFi Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Figure 17: WiFi Only Offload by Venue, 2012-2017 (GB / connection / month)
  • Figure 18: Respondent Age
  • Figure 19: Respondent Gender
  • Figure 20: Respondent Ethnic Background
  • Figure 21: Respondent Annual Household Income
  • Figure 22: Respondent Level of Education
  • Figure 23: Age of Children in Household
  • Figure 24: Respondent Region
  • Figure 25: Respondent Marital Status

For additional information on the U.S. WiFi Offload Traffic Forecast, 2012 - 2017: Relief for Mobile Data Networks? market research report, please contact Iain Gillott, at (512) 263-5682 or by email.