If people want to connect to the internet wirelessly in the UK, the chances are that hooking into a Wi-Fi network will still provide much better speeds than a 3G or 4G cellular network. But new research suggests that the time of dominance for Wi-Fi in this area could be nearing an end.
This is according to a new report from OpenSignal, which found that in many countries, mobile networks are now able to provide faster speeds than Wi-Fi. In fact, in 33 of the 80 nations examined for the study, mobile networks were the way to go.
The UK, like most highly developed countries, still enjoys faster performance overall via Wi-Fi, with an average Wi-Fi speed of 30.8Mbps, compared with 19Mbps for mobile. However, this gap is closing as 4G networks become faster, and when next-generation 5G arrives from 2019, this trend is likely to accelerate.
As a result of this, network managers and deployers may need to rethink how they manage their connectivity, as will hardware makers and mobile network operators.
At the moment, most mobile devices are designed to automatically jump on to any available Wi-Fi network when they detect them, as the assumption is that this will always be quicker than a mobile alternative.
But if this is no longer the case, users whose devices do this could find they end up with a significantly poorer wireless experience. Therefore, steps must be taken to improve both Wi-Fi and mobile speeds and coverage to avoid this.
In the coming years, "devices will connect to Wi-Fi and mobile at once", OpenSignal stated. "Assumptions that users will connect to one network type at a time should be shelved, because smartphone designs will increasingly allow the use of both Wi-Fi and mobile network technologies simultaneously to deliver the fastest data experience."