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Wi-Fi still the dominant mobile data network

March 5th, 2013
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Researchers say they can boost the speed of public WiFi networks by up to 700 percent.

Wi-Fi remains the leading data network for on-the-go data consumption in the five leading Arbitron Mobile-based smartphone panels.

People on Apple iOS devices use the most data and the most WiFi.

Even as carriers aggressively promote their newest generation of cellular data networking, the Arbitron smartphone panelists in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and China, still consume nearly two thirds of their mobile data through public and private Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi Data Consumption by Arbitron Mobile-based Smartphone Panelists
Sorted by average mobile data consumption per month (cellular +Wi-Fi)
% via Wi-Fi Cell + Wi-Fi Data

MB/User/Month

% of panelists
> 1,000 MB/month
U.S. 61% 1,496 49%
U.K. 69% 1,181 37%
Germany 63% 861 37%
France 53% 730 24%
China* 70% 719 25%
Source: Arbitron Mobile Index: Executive Summary Reports, 4th quarter 2012
* Operated by iResearch using Arbitron Mobile technology
iPhone 5

The iPhone 5

The United States and United Kingdom have the heaviest users of mobile data in their Arbitron smartphone panels. A substantial share of the data consumption—61 and 69 percent respectively—relies on Wi-Fi networks.

China and France have the lightest users of mobile data in their Arbitron Mobile-based smartphone panels, both in terms of the average monthly data consumed and the share of the panel who consume more the 1,000 MB a month.

However, their respective share of Wi-Fi networks as a data source stands at a polar opposite.

China panelists consume the largest share—70 percent—on Wi-Fi networks.  French panelists, consume the smallest share—53 percent—of mobile data on Wi-Fi.

In all five of the Arbitron Mobile panels, Apple iOS users are heaviest consumers of mobile data and are the heaviest users of Wi-Fi for their on-the-go data needs.

Data Consumption by Leading Mobile Operating Systems
Sorted by average mobile data consumption per month (cellular +Wi-Fi) on iOS
Apple iOS Android
MB/User/Month % via Wi-Fi MB/User/Month % via Wi-Fi
U.S. 2,512 66% 821 57%
U.K. 2,216 80% 740 64%
China* 1,636 81% 347 65%
France 1,527 70% 635 52%
Germany 1,203 71% 566 56%
Source: Arbitron Mobile Index — Executive Summary Reports, 4th quarter 2012
* Operated by iResearch using Arbitron Mobile technology

Apple iOS was the predominant operating system among the heavy data users in these five smartphone panels.  Seventy-two percent of iOS users in the U.S. and German panel were in 1,000+ MB/month club; in the U.K., 76 percent, and in China 60 percent. In stark contrast, only 29 percent of the iOS users in the France panel consumed more than 1,000 MB/month in the fourth quarter 2012.

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