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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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!
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.

GarrettChoi 8/19/2013 | 1:52:29 PM
Re: LTE tablets Liz, JINX!
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).
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?
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.
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