Feature Article

May 22, 2013

63 Percent of U.S. Internet Access Is from Mobile Devices

Assessments of the coverage or quality of Internet access are more complicated than once was the case, simply because the number of mobile broadband accounts now surpasses the number of fixed broadband connections by quite some measure in the U.S. market.

There were about 90 million U.S. fixed broadband connections in service in June 2012, and 153 million mobile broadband accounts, according to the latest report from the Federal Communications Commission.

That has any number of implications. “Average access speed” is affected, since mobile connections tend to be more bandwidth-challenged than many fixed connections. If the peak hour access speeds or average access speeds include both fixed and mobile data, the overall average and peak rates will be lower than if one measures only fixed network rates.

All other inferences about what people do, how long they do it and when and where they interact with Internet apps likewise change.

The FCC study shows that mobile and fixed networks are evolving towards faster speeds, but also shows how much more nuanced the subject of broadband access has become.

Where once the issue was fixed connections to places, we now confront a mix of fixed connections to places plus many mobile connections directly to persons. 

For the most part, mobile broadband complements fixed broadband. Though perhaps 7 percent of Internet users rely exclusively on mobile access, most users of mobile broadband also buy fixed connections.

But the Media Behavior Institute also found that use of mobile phone and tablet devices reduces the percentage of U.S. Internet users who use a computer in a given week.

The percentage of respondents using a desktop PC slipped by five percentage points between July 2012 and January 2013, for example.

On average, 43.5 percent of participants got access to the Internet using a mobile phone each week during the period ending in January 2013, an eight-percentage-point increase over the period ending in July 2012.

Tablets grew their average weekly reach by four percentage points, used by 17 percent of participants at the end of the study period.

In the first quarter of 2013 Experian Marketing Services found that U.S. mobile Internet users spent the greatest percentage of their mobile web time using email, a 23 percent share of time spent, compared to 5 percent of time spent on desktop.




Edited by Rich Steeves


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