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Growing use of Wi-Fi and smartphone tethering slows wireless broadband growth

Monday, 19 May 2014 | By Andrew Sadauskas

Australia’s mobile broadband market grew by just 3% in the year to December, according to figures released by Telsyte today.


The figures, from Telsyte’s Australian Mobile Services Market Study 2014, says there were 31 million mobile services active in Australia, with 23% now running on 4G/LTE networks.


However, according to the report, the growth rate for mobile broadband is slowing, due to consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with using smartphone tethering and Wi-Fi for tablet devices, reducing demand for wireless broadband services.


While carriers had hopes the growth of tablets would boost sales of portable Wi-Fi hotspots, the figures show the vast majority of tablet usage takes place at home.


In addition, around 80% of workplaces with 20 employees or more now operate Wi-Fi networks, with public Wi-Fi hotspots now supported by local councils, shopping centres, local businesses and some public transport operators.


In a statement, Telsyte senior mobility analyst Alvin Lee says these public Wi-Fi hotspots are “sprouting like mushrooms”.


“Telcos have had some success with mobile Wi-Fi modems, but it is expected smartphone tethering will continue to disrupt this market. The opportunity for dedicated mobile broadband is diminishing even as mobile traffic continues to grow.”


Last month, the Victorian Premier Denis Napthine announced plans to roll out free Wi-Fi to regional train passengers on the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon lines, along with a free public Wi-Fi program around the Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo CBDs .


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.