Digital and mobile Belgians prefer Wi-Fi

50% of mobile device users think Wi-Fi is the most economical way to access mobile internet

Brussels, 18 December 2012 – According to an international survey conducted by Deloitte* into new ways of using mobile technology, Wi-Fi remains the number one source of connectivity for owners of smartphones and tablet devices in Belgium, in contrast with other markets. The survey also reveals that Wi-Fi is used not only at home, but also outside through hotspots and community Wi-Fi. The reason for this may well be explained by the small number of unlimited or heavy usage plans available on the Belgian market.

Users view Wi-Fi as fastest, most reliable and most responsive

According to the Deloitte survey, 86% of smartphone users and 88% of people with tablet devices use Wi-Fi as their main method of getting connected. The main reason for this high figure is financial. Which does not come as a surprise: 50% of respondents see Wi-Fi as a way of saving money on their monthly mobile phone bill. In addition to these savings, Wi-Fi also offers other advantages over alternative solutions for accessing the internet via a smartphone or tablet. The reasons mentioned are the greater speed of Wi-Fi (49%), its responsiveness (33%) and its reliability (32%). Vincent Fosty, Partner at Deloitte adds: "The results show that Belgian users are similar to their counterparts in the UK, 43% also prefer Wi-Fi. By contrast, users in other major markets such as the United States, Germany, France and Japan, prefer other mobile internet connection solutions like 3G."

Wi-Fi hotspots: access to the internet, even away from home

While Wi-Fi is popular in Belgium overall, smartphone users in particular use it to go on the internet while at home (80%). And when they are away from home, almost half of the Belgians who own a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) connect to the internet via Wi-Fi hotspots. "This is a technology that continues to develop," says Fosty, "and Deloitte estimates there are now several thousand hotspots available across Belgium, mainly in public places. Hotspots are also available to users in businesses, hotels, cafés and other locations." Almost half of the smartphone owners say that they use Wi-Fi to get connected when they are in public places (49%), at a friend's home (50%) or at work (30%). Some providers have also developed an offering of Wi-Fi hotspots, which enables their subscribers to access the internet free of charge wherever they go: the principle is based on a community of users who make their routers available to other members of the community.

Unlimited access to mobile internet is still expensive and not very common

Subscriptions to online media services are not particularly popular. The majority of Belgians (74%) who have a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) do not have a plan for accessing online media services. If they were to be persuaded to subscribe to a plan of some kind, online newspapers and music streaming services would be most successful (each with 18%). As for users who have taken the step and opted for a subscription, they use it mainly to access document storage services such as Dropbox and Voice over IP services such as Skype (21% each).

According to Vincent Fosty, "This trend can be explained in particular by a market that has very few 'unlimited' or at least 'high data volume' subscriptions on offer at a competitive price. Currently, 56% of the people surveyed with a mobile internet plan have less than 1 GB of data per month, yet only 9% of the Belgians surveyed would be prepared to pay more for their phone subscription in order to have unlimited internet access." Deloitte's global survey shows that Belgium is the country with the lowest uptake of data packages (6% in Belgium compared with 27% in France and 62% in Finland). However, if they want to change people's habits and boost free mobile internet on the Belgian market, providers will have to review their offering and come up with more attractive products. One alternative to unlimited mobile internet packages is to offer unlimited access to one service in particular. The survey shows, for example, that 67% of people who have a mobile phone with limited access to the internet on their telephone would be prepared to pay a fixed amount to be able to have unlimited access to Facebook. Recent offerings bundling mobile communications with access to premium digital content have indeed experienced fairly high adoption rates.

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*The Belgian survey is part of the Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2012, a worldwide study conducted by Deloitte. The data for the Belgian market is sourced from a survey conducted by YouGov between May and June 2012, and is based on a poll featuring 1000 respondents developed by Deloitte.