OpenSignal: Mobile network speeds beat Wi-Fi in 33 countries

Wi-Fi (pixabay)
Countries that boast high home broadband speeds, such as the U.S., still represent a significant edge for Wi-Fi over cellular data. (Pixabay)

Mobile data speeds are faster on average than Wi-Fi in 33 countries, according to a new study from OpenSignal. The mobile experience in many developed nations is handily beating Wi-Fi speeds, and the divergence between the two technologies should become even greater as 5G services come to the fore.

OpenSignal’s study reviewed Wi-Fi and cellular data speeds in 33 countries from Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and it uncovered vast differences in some countries where Wi-Fi lags considerably behind cellular. Wi-Fi isn’t a complete slouch across the globe, however. Countries that boast high home broadband speeds, such as the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, still represent a significant edge for Wi-Fi over cellular data, according to OpenSignal.

The findings suggest that the mobile industry needs to rethink its approach to Wi-Fi and change some of its design decisions to reflect the current landscape, according to OpenSignal. While Wi-Fi was indisputably faster than cellular almost all of the time a decade ago when the first iPhone and other smartphones entered the scene, 3G mobile networks were relatively rudimentary compared to today’s performance levels. Wi-Fi also used to have a pricing edge over cellular data and greater capacity, but those benefits have shifted dramatically during the last 10 years.

“The perception that mobile networks are inferior to Wi-Fi has persisted, wrongly,” OpenSignal writes in the report. Overall, 41% of the 80 countries analyzed by OpenSignal have a faster download experience on mobile compared to Wi-Fi.

Smartphone users in Australia, for example, enjoy average download speeds 13 Mbps faster on mobile than Wi-Fi. Cellular data also beats Wi-Fi by 11.8 Mbps in Qatar, 7.3 Mbps in Turkey, 5.7 Mbps in South Africa, 2.5 Mbps in France and 1.5 Mbps in Mexico, according to OpenSignal.

“In three highly developed geographies—Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.—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 writes in the report.

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While Wi-Fi used to be a crucial crutch for wireless carriers to rely on when cellular service was subpar or nonexistent, 4G networks and the forthcoming rollout of 5G services have shifted the dynamic and placed mobile networks on equal, if not better, footing with Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi will continue to be a critical feature of smartphones and the mobile experience, but according to OpenSignal’s findings it now faces real competition from mobile networks around the world.