EE Users Snub WiFi for LTE

EE 's silly name is turning out to be quite descriptive. The UK's pioneer LTE operator says its customers are starting to spurn WiFi in favor of its zippy 4G network.

In fact, 43 percent of EE subscribers are using fewer or no public WiFi hotspots since they've gotten 4G, versus 37 percent in April, the operator said Monday in its 4GEE Mobile Living Index, and 23 percent are using their home broadband less. The index contains the first stats released on the network since its launch 10 months ago. EE's LTE network now reaches 60 percent of the UK.

Video downloading, uploading, and streaming makes up 26 percent of LTE network traffic, according to the index. "In fact YouTube alone accounts for 14% of 4G traffic." EE also learned that one-fourth of Britons check social apps more than 10 times a day over LTE, but uploading traffic has overtaken downloads on the network at big events. That's not surprising, given our penchant for sharing via sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but it does speak to the need for uploads that are as fast as downloads, especially since EE foresees data volumes over social networks increasing tenfold by 2015.

The dominance of LTE use for EE subscribers could be partly explained by the fact that morning and evening commutes, where WiFi isn't readily available, are popular times for device use. But I think it also speaks to the quality of the network and the ease of using it. A quarter of EE customers use the mobile Internet three hours a day, and they are doing it via the path of least resistance -- what the phone defaults to and what works well, or at least well enough.

This is great news for EE (which doesn't have a WiFi offload strategy), given its ample spectrum holdings, but other operators banking on carrier WiFi initiatives to relieve congestion and maintain the LTE experience should take note of this.

EE's findings reinforce the importance of making WiFi offload seamless, authentication automatic, and handoff undetectable. More consumers would default to WiFi if the process were baked into the phone, and they'd be happy to do so given the data caps on tiered plans. But when the LTE network is this good, they aren't going to seek it out.

It's certainly a good thing that LTE is proving itself to be as reliable and fast as home broadband, but it could be a bad thing if it comes at the expense of carrier WiFi initiatives.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas 8/19/2013 | 12:17:49 PM
LTE tablets Another intersting fact from the report was that 49 percent of LTE smartphone owners also own a tablet. It didn't say (but I've asked) if they own an LTE tablet or a WiFi only. Given the dominance of WiFi tablets today, I think it'd be pretty notable if its customers were buying AND actively using LTE tablets.
Liz Greenberg 8/19/2013 | 1:48:40 PM
Re: LTE tablets Interesting post Sarah.  I bet they have attractive pricing plans as well such that the users are happy to keep using LTE rather than have to search out ways to keep their data rates low.  It seems that most tablet manufacturers are not too interested in anything other than WiFi here in the USA...maybe because users here don't want to use up precious data and resort to free WiFi instead.  Just wondering?
GarrettChoi 8/19/2013 | 1:51:40 PM
Which is why it exists... Pretty sure that the mobile data overage fee is the only thing stopping me from switching to a LTE-enabled tablet/laptop (and/or going cold turkey on Wi-Fi).
GarrettChoi 8/19/2013 | 1:52:29 PM
Re: LTE tablets Liz, JINX!
Sarah Thomas 8/19/2013 | 1:55:01 PM
Re: LTE tablets I'd be surprised if people aren't worried about the data caps, unless they are on the highest tiers. It'll be interesting to see EE's breakdown of what its customers' subscribe to and how many go over the cap. If they are streaming as much video as they say, I imagine a lot of people come close to it at least. Here's how EE charges:

- £31/month for 1GB

- £41/month for 2GB data

- £46/month 10GB.

- £51/month for 20GB

I think many (most?) tablet manufacturers offer both WiFi and LTE versions, but the uptick has mainly been in WiFi tablets. It's consumers who aren't interested. I've heard that anecodotally and from some carriers. Even if consumers do buy an LTE tablet, I bet a lot don't turn it on. You burn up data so fast, it's a real concern. I'll update on that when EE gets back to me.

Liz Greenberg 8/19/2013 | 2:43:32 PM
Re: LTE tablets Great  minds think alike!!!  Sorry, next time I will let you hit enter faster!
Liz Greenberg 8/19/2013 | 2:46:49 PM
Re: LTE tablets Those prices are pretty reasonable for the upper tiers...especially compared to AT&T (http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/data-plans.html#tab2) which charges for the data, the device, your first born child, the air above your head, etc. It could be a reasonable rate for those who don't pay for a TV subscription. Let's see what EE says.
MordyK 8/19/2013 | 3:21:33 PM
Re: LTE tablets If I had to guess I would say that the high-end customers that arent price sensitive will always opt for the easier and ubiquitous network, but as you go to the more price sensitive customers they begin to think of their usage patterns and as tablets are primarily used in fixed locations they are fine with Wi-Fi only or at the very least limiting their LTE usage.
Sarah Thomas 8/19/2013 | 3:51:51 PM
Re: LTE tablets I think anyone would start to care IF they got overages, but if not, there's no reason to exert the effort to switch to WiFi. Plus, I think we all have experience with really poor public WiFi networks. EE doesn't have an offload strategy, so we're not talking opting to use their WiFi. It would be public hotspots, which are often unreliable, overloaded, broken, or locked.
MordyK 8/19/2013 | 3:58:51 PM
Re: LTE tablets The wireless phenomenon of charging per usage instead of flat fee generally leads toward looking for savings which Wi-Fi provides.

While EE generally dosent have a Wi-Fi offload at all, the value of any offload needs to be passed on to the customer or there is no incentive for them to switch. That said the need for seamless network switching is imperative, although luckily the industry is already making real progress on that front. 
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