Almost half of UK users accessing the internet away from home or work prefer mobile broadband networks, according to a survey by Point Topic. Last year Wi-Fi hotspots held the lead.
Forty-seven percent of surveyed users now choose mobile broadband networks to access the internet, compared to 42 percent who still use Wi-Fi hotspots. A year earlier the ratio was 40 percent to 30 percent in favour of Wi-Fi, according to Point Topic.
The combination of heavy marketing and lower costs has worked in favour of mobile broadband, according to Oliver Johnson, CEO at Point Topic.
He sees the operator price war continuing, with lower monthly rates, and a growing market share for mobile networks as a result. "In 12 to 24 months I think we'll see a 60:40 split," said Johnson.
There is more good news for mobile operators. Only about 10 percent of surveyed users plan to switch operator in the next six months, although that may in part be explained by long contracts that often are required for subscribers.
But the low churn is not true for everyone. Vodafone and Orange have greater customer turnover than competitors.
The survey also shows that 26 percent of the mobile network users are with O2. Orange and Vodafone each take about 20 percent of the market. They are followed by T-Mobile and 3, at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
If Wi-Fi operators want to see their share grow they have to work on building better and more well-known brands, according to Johnson. More consolidation would also be good for the market, he said.
But in the end accessing the internet via mobile networks or Wi-Fi hotspots might be a moot point, as the two technologies finally converge, with mobile broadband users defaulting to Wi-Fi where it's available. "Operators just want users to stay on their network," said Johnson.