South Africa’s Mobile Phone Networks Provides Faster Downloads Than Wi-Fi

“Wi-Fi no longer has a guaranteed advantage over mobile in the speed experience it offers smartphone users."

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Business man hands holding touch screen smartphone ,application
Business man hands holding touch screen smartphone ,application (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Mobile is no longer inferior to Wi-Fi.

Ten years ago, Wi-Fi was faster than mobile almost all of the time, was cheaper…always and had a much greater capacity.

Smartphone users in 33 countries now experience faster average download speeds using a mobile phone network than using Wi-Fi, a new OpenSignal report found.

The global mobile analytics company’s new study has delved deeper into the state of Wi-Fi versus mobile phone networks experience and its analysis indicates that mobile is no longer inferior to Wi-Fi in every regard.

The study concludes that 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 most countries where smartphone users experienced faster download speeds on mobile networks, they also experienced faster upload speeds on mobile,” explains OpenSignal.

But, 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’ Wi-Fi download experience with a slower mobile experience of -38.6 Mbps, -34 Mbps and -25 Mbps respectively.

OpenSignal attributes the speed download improvement of mobile phone networks to the dawn of the modern smartphone, which has dramatically changed the world.

It states the following reasons:

– 4G networks have launched. This new network generation has dramatically boosted the quality of smartphone users’ experience. –

Almost everyone now owns a smartphone. In mature smartphone markets, this is leading to concern of lower smartphone shipments affecting the revenues of smartphone makers.

– Mobile video consumption has exploded. Smartphones have become a mainstream way to watch TV, to such an extent that Netflix is even trialling mobile-only tariff plans and OpenSignal has pioneered new mobile video experience analytics.

Yet, the perception that mobile networks are inferior to Wifi has persisted, wrongly, argues OpenSignal.

OpenSignal’s mobile analytics data demonstrates that in 41% of the 80 countries OpenSignal studied for this report – representing 33 countries – the average mobile download speed experienced by smartphone users is now faster on mobile networks than on Wifi

“Smartphone users’ Wifi experience depends not just on the quality of the Wifi but also on the fixed network which Wifi depends upon for Internet access,” explains OpenSignal.

“The quality of fixed networks varies greatly across countries.

Man turning the mobile network selector button to the next 5G generation. Telecommunication standards concept. Composite between an image and a 3D background. Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock.com
Man turning the mobile network selector button to the next 5G generation. Telecommunication standards concept. Composite between an image and a 3D background. Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock.com

The report explains that with 4G, or LTE, there is a much longer list of countries where smartphone users have a faster download experience on mobile networks than on Wi-Fi.

While the report states that many smartphones do not work on 5 GHz Wifi, so are limited by congestion on the extremely busy 2.4 GHz unlicensed spectrum band also used for Wi-Fi.

The report concluded that on 3G mobile networks there are very few countries where mobile delivers a faster download experience than Wifi for smartphone users.

5G will follow past 3G to 4G evolution trend and accelerate mobile experience

Double exposure businessman using smartphone with 5G network and city overlay background
Double exposure businessman using smartphone with 5G network and city overlay background (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

As 5G arrivesthe mobile industry must change a number of design decisions, as a result, states OpenSignal.

“Mobile operators and smartphone makers alike must re-evaluate their Wi-Fi strategies, especially around mobile offload, automatic network selection and indoor coverage, to ensure they do not accidentally push consumers’ smartphones onto a Wi-Fi network that offers a worse experience than their mobile network.”

The report added that 5G rollouts will help mobile to leapfrog the experience of Wi-Fi in countries where operators are slow to roll out full fibre to the premise connections because of capital cost concerns or logistical issues such as planning approvals.

New 5G networks offer many advantages for mobile broadband which smartphone users will benefit from, including:

Greater speeds, especially peak speed. Operators are targeting usable speeds in the range of 1-3 Gbps with 5G technologies.

Tremendous capacity increase. Many of the new frequency bands are high frequency, which offers a lot more capacity to support more smartphone users; or, in practice, because the number of smartphone users has plateaued, a lot more data consumption per smartphone user at higher speed.

More spectrum choices. As new frequencies arrive, mobile operators, look to utilize the most efficient technology, which is now 5G New Radio (5G NR). Some of the new bands – for example, 600 Mhz – will deliver wide high-quality mobile broadband coverage.

“Wi-Fi no longer has a guaranteed advantage over mobile in the speed experience it offers smartphone users. With 5G, there will be many more countries where mobile delivers a faster experience than Wi-Fi. But Wi-Fi still has a role,” concludes OpenSignal.

“Operators, device makers and consumers need to alter the relationship they have with Wifi and mobile to reflect the improvements in the mobile experience now and in the immediate 5G future.”

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