I recently returned from meeting with the majority of Canada’s service providers to share the results of our recent Cisco IBSG research, “What Canadians Want from Wi-Fi and Mobile.” Wi-Fi is everywhere in Canada, as exemplified by the photo that I took at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Our study confirms this, as Canadians seem to be content with coverage in first-tier locations such as coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants, but are now looking for Wi-Fi to be just as pervasive in other places where they spend their lives. Parks, bus stops, retail stores, shopping malls, and hospitals top the list of additional locations where Canadians would like to be able to access Wi-Fi.
The study revealed that mobile devices are now Wi-Fi-enabled “nomadic” devices. Canadians own an average of 2.4 mobile devices, almost all of which are Wi-Fi-enabled. Canadians spend an average of 2.8 hours per day using their mobile devices in their homes, compared to only 0.5 hours per day in a typical “mobile” on-the-go world.
The Cisco IBSG study also revealed that mobile users are connecting their devices predominantly via Wi-Fi, including 75 percent of smartphone owners. In fact, on average, smartphone users use Wi-Fi one-third of the time to connect their devices to the Internet. Remarkably, Canadians told us that they prefer Wi-Fi to mobile for connecting their mobile devices. They find Wi-Fi superior or equal to mobile connectivity across all attributes, including security and ease of use. Coverage is the only place where mobile has a lead in consumers’ minds, but even that may be changing as one-third of Canadian mobile users now use a public hotspot at least weekly. And, as elsewhere, more than 90 percent of the time, they access that public Wi-Fi for free.
Given these customer insights and changes in the Canadian mobile market, operators are trying to figure out what to do. A beginning point for many Canadian SPs is to use Wi-Fi to offload some of the growing mobile data traffic and bottlenecks that they are experiencing at stadiums and hockey arenas. As more and more excited fans bring their mobile devices to these sporting venues, they expect to consume data-hungry applications and share the experience with their friends while watching the game. Given the increased competition in the Canadian home broadband and video markets, cable companies are beginning to create public Wi-Fi networks to bundle with their core offers to retain customers and create market differentiation. The Cisco IBSG research clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of this strategy in both retaining existing customers and attracting new ones from competitors.
Shaw Cable in Western Canada has fully embraced Wi-Fi as the key to its mobile strategy, forgoing upcoming LTE spectrum auctions to build an alternative “mobile” network by installing Wi-Fi access points throughout its footprint. As Shaw’s CEO explained, “I can cover 80 percent of my customers with 20 percent of the cost of mobile.”
So what does the future hold for Canadian mobility? Here are five predictions for key changes in the Canadian mobile industry over the next two years as an outcome of the Cisco IBSG research:
1. Mobile will become one of the primary ways people access entertainment.
Within the next two years:
- 70 percent of mobile users will access social networks
- More than 50 percent of mobile users will watch streamed and recorded videos
- Up to 50 percent of mobile users will read eBooks
2. Home will continue to dominate other locations for mobile device usage.
In the next two years, more than 50 percent of all mobile device usage will occur in the home.
3. Devices will also get “out of the house,” with increased usage in public spaces.
In the next two years, 15 percent of all mobile device usage will occur in retail and public locations.
4. Wi-Fi will become the predominant access technology for smartphones.
Within the next two years:
- More than 70 percent of smartphones will regularly use Wi-Fi
- Smartphone owners will use Wi-Fi almost 50 percent of the time to connect to the Internet
5. While smartphone penetration will continue to increase, much of the growth of mobile devices will come from nomadic devices.
In the next two years:
- 25 percent of consumers will have eReaders
- 33 percent will have tablets
Cisco IBSG conducted the online survey of 1,060 Canadian mobile users. The study was also undertaken in Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Full results of the survey can be downloaded here.