A new study from Comcast finds that smartphones were the biggest consumer of Wi-Fi in 2021 – and it wasn't even close.
While nearly a billion unique devices connected to Wi-Fi in Comcast households in 2021 – a 12X increase from 2018 – 346.9 million of them were smartphones, the company revealed in its latest Wi-Fi Trends Report.
The number of smartphones, which represents about a third of the devices being connected to Wi-Fi in Comcast customer households, is a 23X increase from 2018 data, according to the company.
Tablets, at 150 million, was the second-largest device category connecting to Wi-Fi, followed by streaming devices, smartwatches and trackers, gaming consoles, and IoT devices, according to the study, which was based on a online survey of 1,000 US adults 18 years or older conducted in November 2021 by Wakefield Research.
Potential to offload wireless data
The results show that there are obviously tons of smartphones out there and that a lot of them are being connected to the home Wi-Fi network. It also sheds some light on the amount of data Comcast stands to offload for Xfinity Mobile, a wireless service that connects through the operator's Wi-Fi network and via cellular networks through Comcast's MVNO partnership with Verizon.
Comcast, which ended 2021 with almost 4 million Xfinity Mobile lines in service, does not publicly report how much data its mobile subs are offloading on Wi-Fi, but the sheer number of smartphones indicates it could be significant.
Charter Communications, whose Spectrum Mobile service also relies on a Verizon MVNO deal, has suggested that it could be in position to offload about one third of its mobile traffic on Wi-Fi and an emerging CBRS network that will be deployed in concentrated, high-use areas.
Comcast, whose mobile business has already turned profitable on a standalone basis, has stressed it is in no hurry to deploy CBRS spectrum covering about 83% of its footprint won at auction in 2020.
Among other highlights from the Comcast study, fitness trackers and other fitness devices connected via Wi-Fi were in the fastest-growing category, which soared 93% in 2021 versus the 2018 study. Streaming devices connected to Wi-Fi saw a 14X rate of growth, Comcast said.
Comcast, which recently introduced its first Wi-Fi 6E-capable gateway, noted that more than 1 million broadband subs used the company's "xFi" parent controls in 2021, and more than 100 million used the company's Wi-Fi network management system to pause and resume the home's Wi-Fi. Nearly 100 million customers are connecting to the company's xFi Pod-branded Wi-Fi extenders, the operator said.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
A version of this story first appeared on Light Reading.