Wi-Fi is everywhere – in homes, at Starbucks, on planes – and wireless carriers haven’t hesitated to capitalize on the ubiquity of this technology.
According to a Juniper Research forecast, Wi-Fi offloading will account for nearly 60 percent of mobile data traffic by 2019.
But while carriers may reap Wi-Fi’s benefits, they also assume much of the blame for poor performance.
A survey conducted by Procera Networks earlier this year found a third of global mobile subscribers have switched carriers due to perceived network quality issues despite acknowledging that much of their mobile time is spent on Wi-Fi.
Survey respondents – nearly 60 percent of whom were from Europe or North America – were asked to rate their mobile experiences across a different variety of uses, including web surfing, social media and video streaming. Just 15 percent of European subscribers and slightly more than 10 percent of North American subscribers gave their video streaming experience an “A” rating. Around 58 percent of all respondents rated their video streaming experience with either a “B” or “C” grade. Video streaming also popped up frequently as one of the most frustrating mobile experiences for survey respondents.
Though respondents reported they were connected via Wi-Fi for 50 percent to 80 percent of the day, just over 54 percent said they feel operators are most at fault when they are unhappy with their mobile experience. Only around 10 percent of respondents placed the blame for poor mobile experience on the shoulders of their Wi-Fi network.
Further, almost 90 percent of respondents said their typical Wi-Fi connection is either equal to or better than their mobile network.
And this dissonance has real consequences. Nearly 47 percent of respondents said they either have or want to switch mobile providers because of perceived poor network quality.
“The survey indicates that subscribers disregard which technology is delivering the service, seeing their operator as responsible overall,” Procera Networks Senior Director of Subscriber Experience Marketing Thomas Vasen said. “It shows that true convergence is a reality for the user – further consolidation of mobile and fixed/Wi-Fi networks will be a key strategy in securing the quality of experience that an operator delivers to their subscribers.”
According to Procera’s Vice President of Global Marketing Cam Cullen, the survey results indicate the need for operators to more thoroughly address Wi-Fi coverage for their subscribers.
Cullen said consumers increasingly expect Wi-Fi networks to deliver a quality experience, whether it’s free or not. And as the consumption of mobile video increases, Cullen said smartphone users will expect networks – Wi-Fi or otherwise – to deliver the same quality video experience that they get with voice calls today.
“Operators that deliver a more comprehensive coverage strategy – that is operators that have either their own Wi-Fi networks or partnerships with Wi-Fi companies – offer a more attractive combination for consumers,” Cullen said. “Customers increasingly expect a good experience on Wi-Fi networks, so operators who run these Wi-Fi networks are going to address that in their infrastructure.”
Though he said most major carriers either have their own Wi-Fi networks or partnerships with Wi-Fi companies like Boingo, Cullen said he can see a future where services akin to Wi-Fi MVNOs spring up.
“That demand opens the opportunity for someone who has a pretty good sized Wi-Fi network around the world to partner up with people who do not have Wi-Fi hotspots set up who want to offer that service to their customers,” Cullen said. “So just like we have MVNOs in the mobile space you’ll start to see these Wi-Fi aggregators become more and more important.”