EC study: Europe loves Wi-Fi, more spectrum should be made available

Digital & Media, Mobile

A new European Commission study has found that people love using Wi-Fi internet and the trend is on the rise. 71% of all EU wireless data traffic in 2012 was delivered to smartphones and tablets using Wi-Fi, possibly rising to 78% by 2016.

The results show how the cheaper cost to consumers of using Wi-Fi hotspots is changing behavior, with the study recommending extra spectrum to be made available across the EU to support this rising demand.

Wi-Fi is a huge success. It’s a win for everybody involved. I will make sure the European Commission helps to spread use of Wi-Fi through extra spectrum and lighter regulation.

Neelie Kroes

European Commission Vice President

While 3G/4G networks are essential for truly mobile activity, it is currently expensive to buy the spectrum rights needed to run these networks, consumers pay significant prices to use 3G/4G (for example when roaming), and the networks are already congested in many parts of Europe because of a lack of allocated spectrum.

Systems where you share your Wi-Fi network with others are a great example of how we can crowd-source a better internet for everyone. Everyone in Europe should be able to benefit from internet when they are away from home and work

Neelie Kroes

The combined use of Wi-Fi and other small cell infrastructures can relieve congestion on the 3G/4G networks by providing “backhaul” functionality outside those networks, minimising in the same time the costs to both network operators and users. Wider use of these technologies could allow operators to save tens of billions of Euros as they go about upgrading networks to meet customer demand.

Wi-Fi is most commonly used in the home and work environments, and is especially useful for connecting multiple devices to one internet subscription. Rapid growth of Wi-Fi is occurring in public places such as cafes and public transport interchanges, and by mobile operators looking to off-load traffic from congested 3G networks. This helps operators cope with the 66% annual increase in demand for mobile data traffic predicted for 2012-2017.

For the study, data traffic off-loading was defined as routing wireless data that could be served by long-range cellular networks over so called “small-area access points” (LTE or Wi-Fi). Smart phones and tablets can connect to such alternative access network technologies, which use local coverage and can operate in frequencies accessible to different network operators.

Wi-Fi and LTE small cells are complementary to one another rather than substitutes. Combining both technologies can help maximising the use of available spectrum whilst minimising costs by using common backhaul and other site infrastructure.