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Summary:

Even with the growth of 3G and the rollout of 4G under way, Wi-Fi has strengthened its grip on consumers. That’s the upshot of a study of millennial users who say Wi-Fi use has become integral to the way people communicate and maintain relationships.

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Even with the growth of 3G and the rollout of 4G under way, Wi-Fi has only strengthened its grip on consumers. That’s the upshot of a study of 1,000 millennial users (ages 17 to 29) in the U.S. and 400 in China, Korea and Japan, who say Wi-Fi use has become integral to the way people communicate and maintain relationships.

According to the survey, commissioned by the Wi-Fi Alliance, almost 70 percent of respondents said they spend more than four hours a day on a Wi-Fi connection. More than half of those polled in the U.S. consider Wi-Fi a necessity in restaurants and malls, and 64 percent of U.S. respondents and 89 percent of Chinese users stated it would be almost impossible to maintain many of their friendships without Wi-Fi. Denying them Wi-Fi would also darken their moods considerably: Three out of four U.S. respondents said they would be grumpier if they went without Wi-Fi access for a week compared to going a week without coffee or tea.

The fact that Wi-Fi is so beloved underscores how critical connectivity — any form of it — is in this era of mobility. Even with 3G access, Wi-Fi has only grown in importance. A study by hotspot locator WeFi found that half of Android users consume more than 500 MB on Wi-Fi in a month and one out of every five use 2 GB per month on Wi-Fi.

Carriers that once shunned phones that connected to Wi-Fi networks now embrace them because they offer the promise of wider connectivity for users, better performance indoors and relief for overworked cellular networks.

AT&T has come to Wi-Fi religion and now touts with glee how many people are accessing their network of Wi-Fi hotspots. They’re also relying on Wi-Fi MicroCells in the home to make up for their sometimes spotty coverage.

Even with 4G coming, the road looks rosy for Wi-Fi because, while it requires someone to pay for a broadband connection, it doesn’t have the same specter of usage caps hovering above it. 3G and 4G have only so much utility if you’re minding your monthly data usage. And with the rise of phones and mobile routers that can serve as mobile hot spots, Wi-Fi is proving how its utility can be extended by working alongside cellular.

That’s partly why ABI research is forecasting half a billion Wi-Fi handsets will ship in 2014, with 90 percent of smartphones utilizing Wi-Fi. Instead of losing its importance in the era of high speed cellular networks, Wi-Fi is growing in its status as a necessity, not just a luxury.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user tiseb.

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  1. researchpaper39 Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    I agree that wi-fi is great and needs to be in each restaurant or mall if the owner wants people in. There are less public places without free wifi each day and for me personally they are closed unless they create a network of their restaurant. Availability of wifi in a public place demonstrates the owner’s attitude to technologies and their plans for their business to a great extent.

  2. So, as WiFi becomes a necessity what kind of impact will that have on carriers who make so much now off of 3G/wireless contracts?

    Alos, given how important (public) WiFi is to the millennials, it seems likely it will be even more important to those even younger. Thus, I think the iPod Touch remains Apple’s secret weapon in growing sales, getting more users into its ecosystem and disintermediating the carriers.

    PS, Ryan: glad you are at GigaOm. I look forward to your posts and analysis.

  3. My idea for the day:
    Three out of four U.S. respondents said they would be grumpier if they went without Wi-Fi access for a week compared to going a week without coffee or tea.
    A thought to ponder…
    always and faithfully,
    JK

  4. NB: AT&T’s MicroCell’s aren’t WiFi, they are GSM/HSPA microcells that connect to the home network with physical Ethernet cables.

    T-Mobile’s UMA service is a bit more similar to a “WiFi MicroCell”

  5. I use Wi-Fi a lot so can’t say too much bad about it. I’m too dependant on technology is the only thing really.

    Certainly think that restaurants that include Wi-Fi would benefit from customers spending more time there, and probably more regular customers too.

  6. Wi-Fi Direct Promises Device-to-Device Connectivity: Tech News « Monday, October 25, 2010

    [...] and cellular network offloading to building personal area networks. As we wrote about earlier, 70 percent of Millennials say they spend 4 hours a day on Wi-Fi, and believe that this is vital for maintaining [...]

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