Wired internet will be replaced by mobile

Internet use via mobile shot up from 40% to 70% globally—in just four years. That growth is expected to continue and suggests the fixed-line internet’s glory days are over.

Wired internet will be replaced by mobile
Credit: Thinkstock

Seventy-five percent of internet use will be on mobile devices next year, according to a new study published by ad forecaster Zenith.

The firm says that’s just the beginning. It reckons that some places, such as Hong Kong, will have 89 percent of total internet use being performed on mobile by 2018. The United States will marginally trail that at 83 percent in that year.

+ Also on Network World: Desktop use off 11% in past year. Winner: smartphones +

Smartphone penetration is the cause. Those devices have proliferated rapidly. In 2012, only 23 percent of individuals in Zenith’s 60-studied countries possessed smartphones. That number is now 56 percent and will be 63 percent globally by 2018. Some countries have adopted the devices more spectacularly; for example, Ireland is at 92 percent smartphone penetration.

Some places, such as Spain, are ahead of the curve, too, in terms of mobile internet use. That country will have 85 percent of internet use occurring through mobile by the end of this year. Spain has 88 percent smartphone penetration this year.

The reason for Zenith’s interest in this area is that the company, a division of advertising agency Publicis, which had $10 billion in revenue in 2015, is involved in selling ad advice. Advertisers need to know where to place their advertising dollars. That will be in mobile, this research strongly proffers.

And that’s something that those in the network and internet supply business should likely get their heads around, too. The internet, looking forward, is not going to be delivered over wires anymore for the vast majority of overall sessions.

“Mobile devices are already the primary means of accessing the internet across the world,” says Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith, in the company's press release. “Next year mobile devices will become the main vehicle for internet advertising.”

Digital communication must become mobile-first

Further, "Zenith advises that all brands need to become mobile-first in their digital communication,” the company says.

Desktops will still be in use at work, the release suggests, but tablets will also be used in that environment.

“During the day, consumers shift their attention from tablet to desktop to smartphone,” the release says, explaining why Zenith is advising brands to develop “coherent” messages across devices. By the time people are at home in the evening, aging desktops with their required fixed lines are a memory.

Desktop use is indeed off. Audience measurement company comScore reckons it’s down 11 percent over the past year.

“The convenience of smartphones and tablet devices and the innovation around mobile apps have completely shifted the digital media landscape in favor of mobile,” comScore said in a report I wrote about in October.

Cellular Internet of Things, too, is a potential growth area for mobile-delivered internet, as opposed to wired internet.

Mobile telco equipment manufacturer Ericsson thinks so. “The IoT will become a bigger connected-device category than smartphones in 2018,” it said in a June study. It says mobile connections need to be used for "critical" connections—those that are portable.

One issue related to mobile IoT internet versus fixed IoT internet will be cost.

Will IoT developers be willing to design devices that are reliant on onerous mobile subscription fees in fixed environments? Why do that if you could use unlicensed wireless spectrum such as Wi-Fi and others. Or will mobile network operators lower IoT network-pitched pricing to get the business? That way mobile becomes ubiquitous and developers only have to work on one radio technology. Mobile takes over everything.

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