analysis Long-term evolution (LTE) may be the technology that brings faster mobile broadband speeds, but research shows that users are rejecting native 3G connectivity for Wi-Fi, and, if history repeats itself, the same could occur for native 4G support in tablets.
Rather than connecting directly to telco networks via 3G-enabled tablets, users are avoiding the heavy price tag of these tablets and falling back on Wi-Fi models that make use of ubiquitous coverage in their area. According to research firm IDC's "A/NZ Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker" report, Wi-Fi-only tablets outdid Wi-Fi/3G tablets in the fourth quarter of last year in terms of the number of shipments.
Telstra appears to be betting on this trend to continue in the 4G space, with its 4G wireless hotspot that will launch next Tuesday for consumers. The hotspot provides users with the means to bring their Wi-Fi-only devices to the LTE network.
It is one of the only ways that owners of the new iPad will be able to connect to the faster LTE network, since the iPad doesn't currently support LTE out of the box due to a difference in spectrum bands across the globe.
IDC's report further pointed to the lack of low-priced tablets in the market as a reason for why people are purchasing Wi-Fi-only models.
Telstra and Optus have discontinued their T-Touch and My Tab tablets, respectively, which were aimed at the lower end of the tablet market. With few options left to purchasers, Wi-Fi-only models have simply become the new lower end of the market, especially in the last quarter, when, according to IDC, vendors dropped the price of these models to increase their appeal as a Christmas gift.
In general, more users are beginning to own more than one mobile device. Last year, Cisco predicted that Australians would have 2.4 mobile devices per person by 2015. With very few devices on the Australian market supporting LTE, it would likely be better to purchase a single, purpose-built and relatively inexpensive hotspot if users decide that they want to connect these devices to an LTE network, rather than a single additional LTE-capable phone or tablet that isn't built for that purpose.
And once a user already has an LTE-capable wireless hotspot, the trend for Wi-Fi-only models is likely to continue, since users would be reluctant to pay for an LTE-capable device and an associated mobile broadband plan when their hotspot already provides those functions.