Missed Connections: UK trailing behind Europe and US in 4G usage

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People in the UK are connecting to the web on their phones via WiFi almost three times more frequently than on 4G, according to new research by mobile data platform Ogury.

But, with the UK telecoms regulator setting a timetable for the launch of 5G services by 2020, Ogury is calling for the telecoms industry to consider, is the UK ready for 5G?

The study, based on the data of over 1 million UK mobile profiles, examined the networks used to connect to the internet over a month-long period. While the National Infrastructure Commission recently reported that a typical Brit can access 4G 53 per cent of the time, Ogury finds that in reality, mobile users are connecting via 4G on average just 18.18 per cent of the time – relying on WiFi for 71.01 per cent of their browsing time.

The data finds that the UK is trailing behind the US (46.08 per cent 4G usage), France (30.34 per cent), and both Spain and Italy (20.46 per cent and 20.3 per cent respectively). With a recent IHS Markit / Qualcomm report predicting the new 5G network will enable $12.3 billion of global economic output between 2020 and 2035, concerns have emerged over how feasible its adoption will be in a nation so tied to WiFi.

Christophe Bize, VP of Data and Mobile Analytics at Ogury, comments: “UK mobile users currently rely on WiFi for the vast majority of their connections. Whether this is because of poor 4G availability, personal preference or even cost, it does not bode well for 5G.”

Mind The Gap: London Leading in 4G Usage

In some areas of the UK, the outlook is even bleaker for 4G usage. Scotland’s Highlands and Islands are, as might be expected, amongst the worst performing, with just 6.26 per cent of mobile connectivity made via 4G. Wales follows at 8.58 per cent; North Eastern Scotland at 9.46 per cent; the South West of England at 9.59 per cent and Northern Ireland at 9.71 per cent.

In contrast, mobile users within the Greater London area spend an average of 28.02 per cent of time connected to 4G, the highest in the UK. Londoners are least likely to connect via WiFi, with mobile users in the area spending an average of 54.72 per cent of their connected device time this way, compared to the UK average of 71.01 per cent.

We Love WiFi: Northern Ireland’s Preferred Network

The high WiFi usage of Scottish (81 per cent) and Welsh (84.68 per cent) users could be attributed to the poor availability and speed of 4G. However, Ogury found that mobile users in Northern Ireland are the most likely to connect via WiFi (using it for 86.14 per cent of connection time), despite having excellent availability and download speeds, according to a recent study by OpenSignal. This could be due to Northern Ireland, and particularly Belfast’s, growing reputation as a tech hub.

Source: Ogury

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