Mobile Broadband Overtakes UK Wi-Fi Hotspot Usage

The strong and sudden rise of Mobile Broadband (HSPA) services over the past year is fast eclipsing more traditional 'location specific' Wi-Fi Hotspots, reports Point Topic. Unlike Wi-Fi, cell based Mobile Broadband services have a wider coverage and can sometimes even be used as a fixed-line replacement.

UK mobile phone companies have managed to grow their market share to 47% of users accessing the Internet away from home or work, which compares with 42% who prefer Wi-Fi Hotspots. Meanwhile 26% of those who use a mobile network to access the Internet are with O2. Orange and Vodafone each take about 20% of the market. T-Mobile and Three (3) have 14% and 12% respectively:

"But O2 isn't the first choice of the new wave users who've got dongles or data cards to connect to the network," says Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic. "Vodafone is top in dongle-user market share with 24% of respondents. O2 comes in at 23% followed by Orange, T-Mobile and 3."

Customer churn also appears to be low among such services, with just 10% of mobile users expecting to change operator within the next six months. Naturally some of this could be down to longer term contract ties, a limitation that several operators have recently begun to remove:

"There are operators that are losing out. Vodafone and Orange both have a larger share of churners relative to their market share. 22% of respondents who churned had been with Vodafone and 24% with Orange," says Johnson.

However the study also claims that it is a lot cheaper to send data over Wi-Fi and, unlike the mobile networks, Wi-Fi has no problems with capacity. To that end Point Topic sees dual-mode operation, with mobile broadband users defaulting to Wi-Fi where it's available, as the way of the future.

Still, many will be asking why Hotspot operators continue to charge such high prices for data if Wi-Fi is supposedly so much cheaper? This continues to be the greatest challenge for commercial Wi-Fi Hotspot operations, which often seem ignorant of Mobile Broadband's threat to their model.

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