Customers to replace fixed lines with 4G, claims Ofcom


Regulator’s comments follow its research that showed data-only mobile broadband subscribers had decreased for the first time on an annual basis

The mass market roll-out of 4G will see smartphones start to replace fixed lines, according to Ofcom director of research James Thickett.

The comments follow the regulator’s recent ‘Commun-ications Market Report 2013’, which showed for the first time on an annual basis that the number of data-only mobile broadband subscribers decreased in 2012, down by 0.1 million to 4.9 million.

This, it claims, is due to more consumers (49 per cent in 2012) using their mobiles to access the internet, though an increase in public and private Wi-Fi has also contributed to the decline.

Ofcom said that data usage had already contributed to a decrease in mobile broadband subscribers and expects usage of fixed broadband lines to decrease further as a result of 4G data.

Thickett (pictured) said: “Smartphones have not been a substitute for fixed broadband yet, but with 4G coming in, we will start to see this happen.”


  1. I can’t see it. Unless something drastic happens with caps and pricing, fixed services will remain dominant. Having looked at other countries around the globe, 4G remains predominantly a complementary service to fixed. In this country, usage forecasts as well as fixed connections forecasts continue to point northwards, so although there will be a moderate amount of substitution, 4G is simply the next step in mobile evolution, as FttX is in the fixed space.

    Can you feasibly imagine a home streaming, downloading and gaming off a 4G MiFi device, given the issues around cost, contention etc? Why did EE bother launching a fixed fibre service if it wasn’t going to remain the dominant medium?

  2. I recall that Ofcom’s market data tables for Q4-2012 were actually the first to show the statistics for this decline in dedicated Mobile Broadband users. But as the article says this is no surprise since more people are just using their Smartphone as MiFi (WiFi) 3G/4G modem routers (e.g. Tethering and dedicated), thus the purpose of separate USB Dongle has become increasingly lost even though they can often deliver slightly better performance.

    But I think it’s 5G that may really show signs of replacing fixed line connections because so far the latest 4G services haven’t been as attractive as some expected and usage allowances remain comparatively low.