Wired Broadband Use Falls as People Go Mobile

by Jeff Wiener on January 8, 2016

stock_cutting_cordFor the last several years I have closely tracked the decline of the traditional landline, as more and more people around the world abandon wired telecom in favour of more convenient mobile technology. What’s interesting though, is that while it took the telecommunications industry many decades of dominance to finally get to this point, it has taken the broadband industry barely twenty years to follow suit, as more and more people are turning to mobile wireless technology for their Internet needs as well.

According to study from the Pew Research Center, the adoption rate of traditional wired broadband connection has fallen nationwide across the U.S. to 67 percent, down 3 percent from last year, the lowest it’s been in some time. Citing the increased affordability of wireless, the ease of access in rural and low-income communities, and the increased adoption of mobile technology, researchers believe that this is only the beginning of what might be the demise of the wired connection.

But truth be told, such news comes as little surprise, given that our entire world is becoming increasingly wireless. While traditional wired broadband still boasts better connection rates, that gap is closing (and with 5G may be almost negligible), and given the affordability of wireless, people are finding more and more reasons to not pay for both types of connections, choosing to get on the wireless wave of the future, while the wired wave begins to crest.

As Internet connection of any sort becomes an ever-increasingly vital part of our existence on this planet, more and more people have perhaps previously thought such connection wasn’t worth the expense are looking for ways to get broadband access. But the problem for many in rural or low-income communities is that traditional broadband access simply has not been available, or if it has, has been far too expensive to justify using it, as companies have struggled to cover the infrastructure costs of laying physical wired cables to remote or otherwise hard to reach locations.

But developing wireless infrastructure, while still expensive, stands as much more efficient way to reach such communities, meaning for more and more people, the only Internet access they have is wireless. So it really comes as no surprise then to hear that as access to broadband services increases, wireless use increases as well, as it’s the only kind of broadband connection available for many people.

Aside from that, however, there is a generational factor in play here as well, much like in the telecom landline story, as young people are increasingly deciding to drop wired home broadband in favour of going to wireless exclusively, simply because of the cost associated with having two largely redundant services.

Not only that, but the penalties for exceeding one’s home data cap are often far more punitive than those for wireless customers, and in today’s digital streaming video world, that can be a huge deciding factor.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think wired broadband is going anywhere, particularly as telecom and tech companies experiment with the next-generation of blazing fast connectivity, but I do consider this trend an inevitable sign of things to come, for just as we can see the end of the traditional landline on the horizon, so to can we see the end of the wired Internet connection following shortly behind it.

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