Wednesday, 21 Aug 2019
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TELECOM | Wi-Fi faster than mobile data? Look again

mobile data

Mobile data is increasingly gaining speed advantage over Wi-Fi, according to a report from OpenSignal.

When we enter our homes and offices, our phones automatically switch from mobile data to Wi-Fi. And the reason is that wifi is faster, right?

Think again. A new report by mobile analytics research company OpenSignal shows that in 33 countries, 41 percent of total number analyzed, smartphone users now experience faster average download speeds using a mobile network than using Wi-Fi. Topping the list is Australia, where mobile delivers an average download speeds that are 13 Mbps faster than that by Wi-Fi. In the Philippines, LTE delivers faster speeds than Wi-Fi by 2Mbps, but only with 4G or LTE.

A quick check on our mobile phone speeds show the following:

Location: Makati CBD

Mobile operator 1” LTE
Download speed: 34Mbps
Upload speed: 17.9Mbps

Mobile operator 2: LTE
Download speed: 43Mbps
Upload speed: 5.1Mbps

wifi-home

A typical home or office, at least in this writer’s experience, would register 5Mbps to 15Mbps speeds. This validates OpenSignal’s latest findings on the state of Wi-Fi vs mobile data.

It seems like mobile data has surpassed wifi speeds when our backs were turned.

Ten years ago, this was the situation:

Wi-Fi was faster than mobile data. The first iPhone used only 2G networks while Wi-Fi was backed by ADSL or cable modems, which is much faster than 2G. This was true years later with 3G.

Wi-Fi was cheaper than mobile data. Home and wifi connection plans were way more affordable than mobile data plans. This could still be true today.

Wi-Fi had much greater capacity. Wi-Fi connections were usually unlimited, while mobile networks put a cap on data volume usage.

In the era of the modern smartphones, landscape has changed:

– 4G networks launched, improving smartphone user experience;
– Almost everyone has a smartphone;
– Mobile video consumption exploded.

This is the era when 41 percent of surveyed countries actually experienced the opposite of what we knew was true about Wi-Fi vs mobile data. In this piece of the pie, average mobile data speeds are faster on mobile vs on Wi-Fi. With 4G or LTE, the portion of internet speeds doing better on mobile is even higher – at 63 percent. This category now includes the Philippines that register 2Mbps faster LTE speeds than wifi.

How did this happen?

Relative ease of cellular deployments. It’s easier and cheaper to update cell sites according to new cellular standards than it is to run fiber that enables Wi-Fi internet access. Wi-Fi upgrades mean new permissions, additional labor and may even require digging to implement the upgrade.

Smartphone design do not focus on Wi-Fi. Smartphone makers nowadays have to pack the best and newest features, including cellular modems and antennas, in the lightest and most compact form-factor possible. This usually does not include Wi-Fi hardware improvements.

5 Ghz effect. Many smartphones do not work on the 5Ghz Wi-Fi. They are limited to the 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi spectrum band, which is congested.

What happens now?

We are awaiting and looking forward to another dramatic change in our mobile phone experience with the coming of 5G.

Greater speeds, especially peak speeds. If the 100Mbps promise of mobile operators now looks impressive, that’s nothing compared to the 1-3Gbps outlook of 5G.

Tremendous capacity increase. New frequency bands will be made available to smartphone users, avoiding congestion in existing bands. Consequently, because the number of smartphone users has plateaued, this means more data consumption per user per smartphone at higher speeds.

More spectrum choices. Operators are looking at various frequencies and the most efficient technologies like the 5G New Radio and the mmWave.

In the Philippines, both Smart and Globe have announced their 5G plans, promising speeds that will hopefully help their respective subscribers stay loyal to their brands. The entry of the third telco will of course make things more exciting for us mobile phone users, but we’ll have to wait another year or two to experience the changes promised by 5G.

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