5G will accelerate the advantage of mobile technology because of the pace of mobile innovation and the dependency of Wifi network experiences on the quality of fixed network broadband deployments which are slow and expensive to upgrade with fibre to the premise (FTTP).
There’s long been an industry assumption that Wifi is better than mobile networks in almost every way. As a result, ever since the arrival of the earliest iPhone and Android smartphones, around ten years ago, smartphones have routinely jumped on the nearest known Wifi connection, using it in preference to 2G, 3G or 4G mobile networks for data.
OpenSignal, the mobile analytics company’s, recent research has revealed that mobile is no longer inferior to Wifi in every
regard and the mobile industry must change a number of design decisions as a result.
In 33 countries smartphone users now experience faster average download speeds using a mobile network than using Wifi according to OpenSignal mobile analytics.
The range of countries where mobile proves faster vary widely from richer countries such as Australia, where the benefit of using mobile was greatest with speeds experienced by smartphone users 13Mbps higher on mobile than Wifi, and France (+2.5Mbps) to markets across every continent, for example: Qatar (+11.Mbps); Turkey (+7.3Mbps); Mexico (+1.5Mbps) and South Africa (+5.7Mbps).
In three highly developed geographies – Hong Kong, Singapore and the USA – the mobile experience bucks the global trend and significantly underperforms compared with smartphone users’ Wifi download experience with a slower mobile experience of -38.6Mbps, -34Mbps and -25Mbps respectively.
The time smartphones spend connected to Wifi has no significant correlation with users experiencing faster Wifi speeds relative to those on mobile, because smartphones will automatically connect to known Wifi networks without including speed as a factor in their decision.
Ten years ago, Wifi was faster than mobile almost all of the time, was cheaper and had much greater capacity.
As 5G arrives, the mobile industry must change a number of design decisions as a result. Mobile operators and smartphone makers alike must re-evaluate their Wifi strategies, especially around mobile offload, automatic network selection and indoor coverage, to ensure they do not accidentally push consumers’ smartphones onto a Wifi network that offers a worse experience than their mobile network.