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Prediction 8

Mobile-only home internet is bigger than you think

“Similar to the trend of many people discontinuing wired home phones, we’re starting to see the same shift occurring in home internet access."

The key trends that Deloitte predicts for mobile-only internet users:

  • Twenty percent of North Americans with internet access will get all of their home data access via cellular mobile networks in 2018. In the UK, five percent of users will solely access their home internet in this way.
  • A mixture of cellular and fixed wireless access technologies could lead to 30-40 percent of the population relying on wireless for data at home by 2022, an increase from only 10 percent in 2013. 

What is mobile-only home internet?

Mobile-only home internet is when there is no active wired data connection to the home – no coaxial cable, fibre-optic connection or DSL copper line. Instead, users rely solely on radio technology for their entire home internet usage.

Why will a growing number of homes rely on mobile-only internet service in 2018? 

There will be many different reasons. Sometimes it is simply because mobile is the only form of data connection available, especially outside cities. However, other factors such as income, age, living alone, or using better and faster networks with bigger monthly data allowances also appear to play a role. 

We predict a significant variation in the proportion of the population that use only cellular mobile for data access by country and by region (see Figure 1). According to our research, less than a tenth of people in France and the UK were mobile-only, but in Turkey the figure was more than three times higher.

Figure 1. Percentage of data mobile-only homes in selected countries in 2017. Source: Deloitte surveys conducted Aug.-Oct. 2017.

What technology will enable the growth of mobile-only home internet?

When using the term “mobile-only,” up until now we have been talking about a specific kind of usage. Some people accessed the internet at home solely via their phone’s cellular radio and viewed the content on the smartphone screen; others used their smartphone radio as a hotspot and viewed the internet on other devices like computers or tablets. 

The data in either case flowed over a licensed spectrum between 700 MHz and 5 GHz and was provided by cellular operators, and the technology was mobile. This solution is only adequate for those who use little data. However, this could change with the arrival of one application of 5G fixed wireless access, which operates at higher frequency bands and uses a dedicated access point. Monthly capacity would be very high, with each home able to use over a terabyte per month.

North American carriers are doing multiple trials in 2017 and 2018. The first commercial launch from one carrier is scheduled for late 2018. Trials are revealing that fixed wireless access technology may be working better than expected: with throughput of 1.4 Gbit/s at a distance of about a quarter of a mile and from behind a building. 

What are the implications of mobile-only internet access for businesses and regulators?

The most obvious short-term implication of the prevalence of mobile-only access is for all firms doing business with consumers over the internet. Any application that involves large images or even medium-quality video might not be feasible for mobile-only customers with low data caps. For these situations, e-commerce retailers or online financial services firms will want to consider having low bandwidth versions that can reach the mobile-only audience.

Access to the internet, especially at higher speeds and with higher monthly caps, is of great interest to regulators worldwide. Often there are programmes, initiatives and incentives that aim to provide better internet access to as much of the population as possible, with a focus on rural and lower-income households. Given the predictions above regarding mobile-only, regulators need to consider not only wired solutions but wireless too.