There’s long been an industry assumption that Wi-Fi is better than mobile networks in almost every way.
As a result, since the arrival of the earliest iPhone and Android smartphones around a decade ago, smartphones have routinely jumped on the nearest known Wi-Fi connection and used it in preference to 2G, 3G or 4G mobile networks for data.
But a new OpenSignal report has found that mobile is no longer inferior to Wi-Fi in every regard, and the mobile industry must change a number of design decisions as a result.
“The reason early modern smartphones made the choice to stop using cellular for data if a usable Wi-Fi hotspot was nearby is simple to understand given the situation back then,” it said.
Wi-Fi 10 years ago:
- Was faster than mobile almost all of the time. The first iPhone only used slow 2G networks – so of course, Wi-Fi backed by ADSL or cable modems running at many Mbps was faster . Even for later iPhones or Android smartphones, the mobile networks back in 2008/9 were only 3G, and were often overloaded by the sudden surge of smartphone sales.
- Was always cheaper. Wi-Fi in the home or office had no marginal cost for the users, but often mobile networks charged more for plans with more data volume or in some cases for the privilege of even having any mobile data.
- Had much greater capacity. With the exception of those on initial iPhone plans with unlimited data, smartphone users had to confront limited data volumes on mobile, but unlimited dat a when they connected to Wi-Fi . And, many of the mobile operators that initially offered “unlimited” data with the iPhone soon backtracked.
“In 33 countries smartphone users now experience faster average download speeds using a mobile network than using Wi-Fi according to OpenSignal mobile analytics,” Opensignal said.
“The range of countries where mobile proves faster vary widely from richer countries such as Australia, where the benefit of using mobile was greatest where smartphone users experienced average download speeds 13 Mbps faster on mobile than Wi-Fi , and France (+2.5 Mbps) to markets across every continent, for example: Qatar (+11. 8 Mbps); Turkey (+7.3 Mbps); Mexico (+1.5 Mbps) and South Africa (+5.7 Mbps).”