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Australians ditch tablet plans in favour of Wi-Fi, tethering

Aussies are turning away from tablet data plans and dedicated mobile broadband devices, instead opting to using Wi-Fi or smartphone tethering to stay connected.

Wi-Fi is in as Australians turn away from mobile data plans.Image by Cameron Adams, CC BY-ND 2.0

According to new research from telecommunications analyst firm Telsyte, this shift in data usage has left telcos out in the cold, as consumers shy away from buying dedicated tablet data plans and opt to piggyback off Wi-Fi connections.

The research also shows demand for mobile broadband devices in the Australian market grew by just 3 per cent in the 2013 calendar year. While mobile data usage is increasing, the smartphone has become the device of choice for data access according to Telsyte senior analyst for Mobility, Alvin Lee.

"Telcos have had some success with mobile Wi-Fi modems, but it is expected smartphone tethering will continue to disrupt this market," he said. "The opportunity for dedicated mobile broadband is diminishing even as mobile traffic continues to grow.

"[Wi-Fi hotspots are] sprouting like mushrooms and are now widely supported by local councils, shopping centres, local businesses and increasingly our transport networks."

Consumers are also driving a shift in the way telcos sell data -- as more and more Australians use their tablets at home, in Wi-Fi range, Telsyte estimates that telcos are only selling data for 20 per cent of the consumer tablet market.