Smartphone users are increasingly tapping into their devices’ mobile hotspot capabilities, but wireless carriers “are missing key opportunities to monetize personal hotspots,” according to a survey conducted by uSamp commissioned by wireless and mobility solutions provider Smith Micro Software.

The percentage of smartphone users taking advantage of their devices’ mobile hotspot capabilities rose 9% since May 2012 to 62%, uSamp found. Though usage is increasing, “many consumers are still concerned with the cost, usability and lack of plan options available with smartphone hotspots,” and carriers are missing key monetization opportunities, however, Smith Micro Software says.

According to survey results:

  • 1 percent of respondents have used a dedicated hotspot device, a smartphone hotspot, or both to connect Wi-Fi devices to the mobile Internet:
    • almost half are not frequent users
    • more than 25 percent do not pay their carrier for hotspot service, but instead use over-the-top applications to access this feature on their smartphones.
  • The majority of hotspot users are heavy data users, yet over two-thirds of light and moderate data users would tap personal hotspot services if their carrier offered a pay-as-you-go pricing model, presenting a revenue opportunity for carriers.
  • For nearly one-third of respondents who do not use any form of personal hotspot, privacy concerns (27 percent) and the desire to avoid another wireless contract (21 percent were major contributors to non-usage.

“Over 90 percent of tablets sold in the U.S. are Wi-Fi only, so leveraging a smartphone’s hotspot feature to monetize these devices is a great opportunity for carriers,” commented Sunil Marolia, Smith Micro VP, Product Management.

“Our survey results highlight some concerns preventing broader adoption, and significant revenue leakage associated with hotspot service. By making mobile hotspots easier to use, with more flexible business models behind them, operators can better capitalize on the revenue potential of these devices.”

Examining mobile hotspot usability and features among “Frequent” and “Occasional” hotspot users, uSamp and Smith Micro found:

  • 54 percent want easier, one-step access to connect a device to a personal hotspot
  • 49 percent want self-care diagnostics to help debug connectivity issues
  • 43 percent prefer ad-sponsored hotspot service, even if usage limits were applied

The survey also revealed significant differences between professional users, whose mobile hotspot service is paid for by employers, and recreational users. Fifty-nine percent of professional users are concerned about hotspot performance, uSamp and Smith Micro found, while only 16% of recreational users were. Two-thirds of professional users also use their hotspots for recreational purposes, however, highlighting the “importance of enhanced management and control features to prevent security breaches and skyrocketing mobile data bills,” a consideration for both mobile hotspot users and employers, according to Smith Micro.

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