4G Allows an ‘Always Online’ Generation

According to EE’s 4GEE Mobile Living Index, published in August 2013, the use of 4G is making the idea of the ‘always online’ generation a reality. The report uses data from the EE 4G network collected over a six month period, combined with a survey of 1000 4G users to take a look at the impact of 4G on the way we use mobile internet.

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When asked which activities they had done more of on their mobile devices since they started using 4G, EE’s customers gave a wide range of responses:

  • 47% said they did more web browsing
  • 37% said they used more GPS based services
  • 35% said they downloaded more apps
  • 34% said they streamed more video content
  • 33% said they accessed social media more frequently
  • 19% said they did more online shopping

Mobile internet use is starting to catch up with home or work broadband as users discover the speed 4G can provide on the move. Around 26% of 4G customers spend more than three hours per day using mobile internet, via smartphones or tablets, and this figure is increasing rapidly.  Although this is still less than the 33% of 4G customers that spend more than five hours per day using traditional home or work broadband to access the internet, the balance is changing. 43% of respondents said they had used fewer public wi-fi hotspots since they had started using 4G, and 23% said they needed to use their home broadband less.

Streaming video content is one of the most obvious uses of 4G, and services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Sky Go, and YouTube are all popular with 4G users. EE sees a huge surge in traffic on its 4G network when there is a high profile sporting event on television. To illustrate this they show the data from the Sunday of the 2013 Wimbledon men’s final, where Andy Murray became the first British winner since 1936. As it was a sunny day, many viewers were taking advantage of their 4G devices to watch the event in parks and gardens, meaning that EE saw a peak in traffic on its 4G network that was 20% higher than ever previously recorded. Generally we prefer to stream video to larger screens, so tablets are more likely to be used for this purpose than smartphones.

However, it’s not just streaming or downloading video that has become easier with 4G. At a time when social media plays a huge role in our lives, the ability to upload videos and photos of events as they unfold is vital. EE has observed peaks of activity during national charity events such as marathons, and music festivals such as Glastonbury, as participants keep in touch with their online communities by uploading videos and photos. 60% of 4G users check social media accounts three or more times per day on mobile devices.

Although we are still in the early days of 4G in the UK, it is already having a major impact on the way we access the internet when we are out and about. As other providers begin to roll out their 4G networks and 4G adoption picks up pace, it will be fascinating to see the effect on the ‘always online’ generation.