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WiFi Dominates Android Mobile Data Usage

Android smartphone customers are relying on WiFi to carefully ration the gigabytes available on their cell phone data plans. The Nielsen Mobile Performance Panel for August 2016 found that more than three times as much data consumed on Android mobile phones in the U.S. is delivered through Wi-Fi networks as opposed to cellular. Relying on WiFi is something mobile carriers encourage, since they often direct subscribers to their own WiFi hotspots to ease demand on their cellular data networks. And many places of business promote free WiFi to get customers through the door. Even at home, smart phone access to WiFi accounts for more than 25 percent of the total traffic on fixed access broadband networks in North America households, according to Sandvine.

The preference for WiFi among Android users is independent of age and ethnicity.

Millennials ages 18-24, have the highest penetration of smart phone usage—98 percent— according to Nielsen Mobile Insights. Among Android users, they also have the biggest appetites for mobile data—17.4 gigabytes a month—and they consume 4 times as much data on WiFi as they do on their cellular plans, according to the Nielsen Mobile Performance Panel. Millennials with Android devices consume 14.1 gigabytes of data (81 percent) on WiFi versus 3.2 gigabytes (19 percent) on cellular.

Even the heaviest users of cellular data on Android devices—adults between the ages of 25 to 34 who consume an average of 3.6 gigabytes of cellular data a month—still route three times as much data—11.2 gigabytes or 76 percent—through WiFi networks.

The remaining demographics, adults 35-44, 45-55, 55-64 and 65 plus, all route between 76 and 84 percent of their mobile device data through WiFi networks.

Hispanics are the largest consumers of mobile data overall and of both cellular and WiFi data in particular, reports Nielsen. The average Hispanic Android user consumes 13.9 gigabytes of mobile data each month—10.1 gigabytes or 72.6 percent via WiFi and 3.8 gigabytes or 27.4 percent on cellular.

African Americans are second among the top three ethnic groups, consuming 12.4 gigabytes of mobile data a month—9.1 gigabytes or 73.4 percent on WiFi and 3.3 gigabytes or 26.6 percent on cellular.

Whites are the lightest consumers of WiFi and cellular data among the top three ethnic groups. The average white smartphone user consumes 10.8 gigabytes of mobile data each month—8.6 gigabytes or 79.3 percent via WiFi and 2.2 gigabytes or 20.7 percent on cellular.

Nielsen Mobile Performance measured data usage of 45,000 U.S. based Android Users (age 18+) in the panel for the month of August 2016. “Usage” is defined as a data transfer: a download (of at least 150KB) or upload event (of at least 100KB) over a data network, either Wi-Fi or cellular.