Smartphone users on Wi-Fi drive most website traffic

Smartphones are responsible for significant web traffic growth, and a surprising amount of it is on Wi-Fi, not mobile networks.

Smartphone users on Wi-Fi drive most website traffic

Web visits from desktops and tablets have declined dramatically, says Adobe Digital Insights in Adobe Mobile Trends Refresh — Q2 2017.

The device people are using: their smartphone. And the majority of that device’s traffic is arriving via Wi-Fi connections, not mobile networks, the analytics-oriented research firm says. Adobe has been tracking over 150 billion visits to 400 websites and apps since 2015.

The sites these mobile users are visiting are large-organization national news, media and entertainment, and retail — with over 60 percent of those smartphone visits connecting through Wi-Fi.

Major travel, banking and investment, automotive, and insurance company sites are up there, too, with more than 50 percent of their public-deriving traffic, from smartphone devices, coming through Wi-Fi instead of via mobile networks. 

Cisco bullish on Wi-Fi

Networking equipment vendor Cisco is also bullish on Wi-Fi. In research published in February, it says that by next year, “Wi-Fi traffic will even surpass fixed/wired traffic.” And by 2021, 63 percent of global mobile data traffic will be offloaded onto Wi-Fi networks and not use mobile.

“By 2021, 29 percent of the global IP traffic will be carried by Wi-Fi networks from dual mode [mobile] devices,” Cisco says.

Wi-Fi is also expected to handle mobile network offloading for many future Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company says.

It's seems reports Wi-Fi's death, like Mark Twain's, are greatly exaggerated. 

Reasons for Wi-Fi’s hold and domination over mobile include speed, which is often faster than mobile networks, and cost. Wi-Fi costs less for consumers than mobile networks. Expect a reversal, though, if mobile networks get cut-rate enough.

Will 5G displace Wi-Fi?

What will happen when 5G mobile networks come along in or around 2020? Is Wi-Fi’s writing on the wall then? Maybe. For a possible answer, one may need to look at history.

“New cellular technologies with higher speeds than their predecessors tend to have lower offload rates,” Cisco says. That’s because of more capacity and advantageous data limits for the consumer. It’s designed to kick-start the tech, as was the case with 4G’s launch.

In any case, whatever way one looks at it, mobile internet of one kind or another that isn't fixed is where it’s at. It’s responsible for web traffic growth. People want smartphones for consuming media.

“Bigger screens are losing share,” Adobe says in an article accompanying its report.

U.S. government websites corroborate Adobe’s mobile trend. In an August report, the General Services Administration (GSA) said mobile had grabbed 43 percent of all traffic to government websites in December 2016, compared to 36 percent a year before. It sees even more growth this year, it says.

“Most industries see more than half of their traffic from mobile devices,” Adobe concludes.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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