Though the last of the big four wireless carriers caved and began offering unlimited data in early February, a new report from OpenSignal indicates wireless users still leaned heavily on WiFi in the first quarter.
According to OpenSignal data, smartphone users spent around half their time connected to WiFi versus cellular for data. Verizon customers – who only gained an unlimited option midway through the quarter – spent the most time on WiFi with 54 percent. They were followed by AT&T customers, who spent 52 percent of their time on WiFi, and Sprint customers, who cruised on WiFi 51 percent of the time. T-Mobile customers spent the least time on WiFi, at 43 percent, OpenSignal found.
While OpenSignal said it’s “tempting” to only view this information through a data plan lens (those who got unlimited first using WiFi less), the firm pointed out such a view oversimplifies a very complex space.
“Some operators, for instance AT&T, have built carrier WiFi networks, automatically connecting customers to hotspots whenever they’re in range,” Kevin Fitchard wrote on OpenSignal’s blog. “The type of customers each operator caters to could also have a big impact. Business professionals, for example, often log into workplace networks as soon as they clear their office lobbies. They’re also more likely to pay for access to dedicated WiFi access at hotels, airports, and convention centers.”
Additionally, Fitchard pointed out time spent on WiFi doesn’t necessarily equate to the amount of data used. This, he said, is because many WiFi connections can be passive.
But OpenSignal’s findings back up data from Ogury put out in February that found Sprint and T-Mobile customers connected using cellular networks the most, while Verizon users trended more toward WiFi. The numbers, of course, are different, but Ogury also noted WiFi usage also depends on the state a customer lives in.
More on that report can be found here.