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Survey of Mobile Data Users Finds Combined Cellular and Wi-Fi Internet Access

11/11/09 - A new survey of international mobile data users by Stoke and Trustive confirms that many users believe that connectivity and access to the Internet at all times is a priority -- even if bosses don't insist on it. According to the survey, users select their mobile provider by price, but high quality coverage is an essential. Users increasingly seek out Wi-Fi, and favor operators providing combined cellular and Wi-Fi services.

The survey was conducted during July and August, 2009 by mobile broadband gateway provider Stoke and international Wi-Fi access provider Trustive. In April this year, the companies announced a partnership to investigate new technologies and business approaches to improve the mobile broadband data experience.

"Our survey highlights a growing issue for the industry -- mobile data users are voting with their feet on the issues of price, flexibility and service quality," said Barry Hill, VP of sales and marketing for Stoke. "Unless they find innovative new solutions, mobile broadband providers will remain locked into the problem of how to provide the service users expect at a price that makes sense for both sides."

Price dictates provider: Overwhelmingly, (85.9%) respondents chose price as the most important factor in selection of a Wi-Fi access provider, with high quality national and international coverage a top priority for more than 60% of users. Ability to access applications was a significant factor in determining satisfaction with access while traveling.

Respondents pay for their own access: 72% of respondents pay for their own Wi-Fi access, with the remainder having their bills picked up by their employer. 51% of users said they had been unpleasantly surprised by the size of a bill on their return from a trip.

Ability to access applications is key: Users confirmed that staying connected with business by accessing emails was the most important element of Wi-Fi access (98.6%), with the ability to use VoIP and IM lagging at 42% and 34% respectively.

Stay connected for business: 40% of users said they want to be connected and available for business interaction at all times. Only 3% said their bosses actively require them to be connected. The overall user preference is to access their business network from wherever they are, at any time. Almost two thirds of respondents (65%) described themselves as network-centric, accessing the network whenever they needed to download materials rather than carrying their information with them.

Etiquette remains a factor: Half of the survey participants said they viewed checking messages during a meeting as impolite, although a strong sub-set of respondents (27.6%) felt that message-checkers were just making the best use of their time.

Wi-Fi for data roaming: Most respondents said they use Wi-Fi for data roaming (64.3%), with 41.8% of users confirming that they plan their Wi-Fi usage in advance of traveling so they know where and how they can access the Internet. The remaining respondents tended to use Wi-Fi on an ad hoc basis, primarily due to lack of awareness of where reliable Wi-Fi access might be available.

Wi-Fi data access in airplanes is a hit: 40% said it's a great idea without reservations, since it will reduce their downtime. 50% approved of the idea as long as devices are forced onto silent mode. Only 9% disliked the concept of Wi-Fi access in the air. (Voters were not asked to comment on voice cell phone usage.)

"The survey demonstrates widespread dissatisfaction with mobile operators," observed Hill. "On the plus side, it indicates that due to high and unpredictable data roaming charges, Wi-Fi is the wireless broadband preference for workers when traveling. Users expect operators to bundle affordable worldwide Wi-Fi access together with cellular data plans. Increasingly, they will select operators based on the mixed wireless access experience."

"The success of the iPhone and other devices that allow access through Wi-Fi and 3G have focused widespread attention on the future of mobile data traffic," said Christian VanGhelder, CEO of Trustive. "The major issues for always-on business travelers today are breadth and depth of network coverage, the ability to move seamlessly from network to network as they travel nationally or internationally, and the price each individual is required to pay for staying in touch."

"Speed, quality, ease of use and price are still driving user expectations," added VanGhelder. "They should not be a rarity in 21st century communications. Trustive and Stoke are working to develop a new ecosystem based on user preference and innovative technology, that provides mobile operators with a viable solution for data off loading."

"Operators are being forced to rethink their mobile broadband infrastructures in order to retain and grow their user base," Hill said. "The market is driving growing receptivity to innovative multi-access and offload solutions such as Stoke's."

By Robert Hoskins

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