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.
Nearly 1 billion unique devices connected to Wi-Fi in Comcast households in 2021
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.