Inside the Numbers: Is Mobile the Balance of Broadband?


In Mary Meeker’s just-released 2014 Internet Trends report, she points to developments in mobile penetration and usage that reveal it may be becoming a viable competitor to traditional wireline broadband. Her report says that in 2014 we used 81 percent more data on mobile than we did in 2013. And of our total data consumed, almost 20 percent was on mobile, up from 11 percent. So in this Inside the Numbers, we’re asking “Is mobile really a viable competitor to wireline broadband?”

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Since its launch at the end of 2010, 4G (LTE) service in the United States now serves 62.5 million subscribers with mobile speeds well above 15 Mbps depending on carrier and covers nearly 20 percent of the U.S. That’s on top of over 70 percent penetration for 3G service capable of about 4 Mbps. In order to stream movies, Netflix recommends 1.5 Mbps, so these connections are more than enough to enjoy the full broadband experience. And streaming to smartphones and tablets requires lower levels of bandwidth than streaming to a 55″ HDTV.

Not only are speeds and penetration increasing, the total number of devices that connect to mobile is poised to surpass wireline-connected devices. Of the total number of broadband connected devices in America, about 43 percent are mobile devices – many of which are capable of acting as a hotspot for laptops and tablets. This already surpasses the number of cable modems as an access point to the Internet.

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While the majority of data is still consumed on a wireline or Wi-Fi connection, mobile has already become a serious challenger. Based on the numbers, it should be considered a core broadband competitor and a significant source for Internet connectivity.