ISPs see big ingress by mobile operators for internet, study finds

U.S. government survey finds consumers prefer mobile over fixed-line internet and fewer use desktop PCs

ISPs see big ingress by mobile operators for internet

A massive drop in the numbers of those using desktop computers is shown among the datasets released by the Commerce Department last month.

That data, based on July 2015 figures, is just one facet of the extraordinary data dump.

More juicy stuff includes that well over half of households (60 percent) who use the internet at home use "mobile internet service" while in the home.

The government numbers come from a massive, 53,000-household Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau last year. The large size of the sample means the numbers are representative of the entire population, the department says.

Shockers in the online data explorer website that they’ve set up for our perusal include that only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) use the internet at work. That number is rising, however. At the turn of the century, the online-at-work number was just 12 percent.

Mobile, or cellular phones, as one might guess, are gaining traction, with a doubling of mobile phone use since 2011, the agency found. Fifty-two percent of the population uses the portable, convenient devices now, up from 27 percent then.

One interesting quirk shown by the survey is that desktop, laptop or tablet use by anyone in the household, at home, took a sudden tumble in 2013. While the numbers of those using the three kinds of devices had risen pretty evenly over the decades—since 1994’s 24 percent figure, in fact—they peaked in October 2012 at 78 percent of the population. The July 2013 number dropped to 72 percent. There are no post-2013 survey numbers. Mobility is discovered?

Wired internet use drops

That sudden drop in 2013 correlates with a fall, at the same time, in use of wired high-speed internet used at home. Wired (non-dial-up) internet gradually climbed from the turn of the century—the first numbers available in this survey—where it was 10 percent of those households with home internet use. The proportion of the population using wired service got to 84 percent in 2012 and 2013. The number for 2015 is 76 percent.

That’s a drop in fixed-line, and one might presume is related to mobile’s gain. One big question is going to be whether the fall continues as streaming media gains traction. Will Americans be happy with the speeds and data caps imposed by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) as streaming becomes a more prevalent habit? Could the MNOs drop the caps if they had to?

Another question is, if ISPs drop their fixed-line prices, will consumers stay or adopt—and do mobile, too? The shift to mobile for internet may have roots in budget-stretched Americans needing to choose just one service—and mobile being the most utilizable of the two evils for internet.

The plummet in the numbers of people using desktops is also corroborated by recent reports from Gartner and IDC, by the way. Both research outfits have recently come up with similar numbers. Gartner says 2016 Q1 global shipments are off 9.6 percent, and IDC says that number is 11.5 percent, according to CNET.

IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, Network World’s owner.

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