Consumers have a true love of mobile devices, as evidenced by recent Cisco mobile consumer research.  Significant percentages of respondents reported using everything from laptops, smartphones, and tablets to eReaders and mobile gaming devices. Americans now own an average of three mobile devices each, up from 2.6 devices in the 2012 Cisco mobile consumer study.  Perhaps more significant, our findings show that the number of smartphone users has grown by 21 percent in just one year, now reaching 68 percent of the population, at the expense of basic phones. Most remarkable is that the number of tablet owners has expanded by over 90 percent in just one year, with close to four out of ten consumers possessing one of these new devices.

The insatiable demand for mobile devices and new applications that use large amounts of bandwidth is generating staggering volumes of mobile data. In parallel, the use of Wi-Fi for Internet access is exploding, as more mobile devices are Wi-Fi enabled, the number of public hotspots expands, and user acceptance grows. Most mobile operators now realize that offloading data traffic to Wi-Fi can, and must, play a significant role in helping them avoid clogged networks and unhappy customers. Many service providers are now constructing extensive networks of public Wi-Fi hotspots for use by their mobile or home broadband customers. The networks allow mobile offload and help enhance and differentiate their offerings. In addition, service providers are struggling to understand new business models for making money from Wi-Fi.  However, very little is currently known about how consumers are actually using public Wi-Fi and how they view the overall experience. Nor is there much information about mobile users’ appetite for these new services, their willingness to use them, or their privacy or security concerns surrounding these data-based services.

To learn more, Cisco conducted a survey of 620 U.S. mobile users to understand their needs and behaviors, use of devices, applications and mobile access technologies, and how they have changed since our 2012 mobile consumer study.

Top 10 Research Findings

  1. It’s all about the home.
  2. Wi-Fi is the connection of choice for all mobile users.
  3. LTE is a complement to Wi-Fi, not a substitute
  4. Public Wi-Fi is now a big part of the mobile life.
  5. Consumers are communicating and surfing at established hotspots.
  6. Public Wi-Fi needs to be faster, more secure, and in more locations.
  7. Users are generally satisfied with public Wi-Fi, but have concerns with some locations.
  8. Mobile users are interested in localized, personalized, and enhanced experiences when using Wi-Fi.
  9. Consumers are willing to surrender personal data for a better experience.  But they want control.
  10. Small cells provide an opportunity to improve mobile quality and coverage and reduce churn.

The complete results can be found at Discover What Consumers Want from Wi-Fi and Mobile.

Cisco mobile consumer research clearly demonstrates that consumers are using a greater number of mobile devices to do a greater number of things. As demand for mobile devices and network connectivity continues to grow, Wi-Fi, small cells, and traditional macro mobile networks will all be critical to meeting the needs of mobility-enabled consumers. Service providers are in the enviable position of being able to successfully integrate these networks and deliver new sources of value.

This white paper is part of a series presenting 2013 Cisco mobile consumer research findings.  Previous blogs and white papers have highlighted What Mobile Consumers Want from Public Wi-Fi, Understanding the Changing Mobile User and Unlocking Wi-Fi Enabled Value-Added Services.


Stuart Taylor


Service Provider Transformation Group