Wi-Fi still best way to connect wirelessly in the UK – but for how long?

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People in the UK can still enjoy faster wireless download speeds when connecting to a Wi-Fi network as opposed to a mobile signal, but this may not be the case for much longer, a new report has stated.

Research by OpenSignal found that in the UK, using Wi-Fi offered average speeds around 60 per cent faster than mobile, with an average of 30.8Mbps for Wi-Fi, compared with 19Mbps for mobile networks. The company said this was partly due to the fact the country has a mature network of fixed hotspots that help to deliver data to users quickly.

However, it also found that traditional assumptions that Wi-Fi offers a better experience than cellular networks may no longer necessarily apply, as more nations adopt faster mobile networks and innovations such as 5G stand poised to further boost mobile performance.

Indeed, the study found that in 33 of the 80 nations examined, mobile speeds already outstrips those provided by Wi-Fi. For example, in Australia, which had the biggest gap, mobile networks offered typical download speeds around 13Mbps higher than Wi-Fi networks.

Author of the report Ian Fogg, vice-president of analysis at OpenSignal,added: "5G will accelerate the advantage of mobile technology because of the pace of mobile innovation and the dependency of Wi-Fi network experiences on the quality of fixed network broadband deployments, which are slow and expensive to upgrade."

This will mean mobile operators and device manufacturers will have to reevaluate their strategies in the coming years when it comes to how mobile gadgets connect wirelessly.

Currently, most smartphones will automatically move their connection to an available Wi-Fi network whenever one becomes available, based on the assumption that Wi-Fi will be superior, but as mobile networks improve, this will not always be the case.

Mr Fogg therefore said companies must "ensure they do not accidentally push consumers' smartphones onto a Wi-Fi network with a worse experience than the mobile network.