MOBILE NETWORK is starting to beat with WiFi connection in terms of average download speed in most parts of the world, with the emergence of fifth generation (5G) network seen to keep this trend going, wireless coverage mapping firm OpenSignal found in a recent study.
In the report “The State of WiFi vs Mobile Network Experience as 5G Arrives” sent to reporters on Tuesday, the company said it studied 7.7 million devices across the globe from August to November and found smartphone users in 33 countries experience faster connection when using a mobile network than WiFi.
In the Philippines, it said the average download speed using a 4G or long term evolution (LTE) network is 2 megabits per second (Mbps) faster than on WiFi, but overall mobile download speed at 6.3 Mbps continues to fall behind the WiFi download speed of 7.6 Mbps.
However, the emergence of 5G networks is expected to propel the mobile network experience to eventually outperform WiFi.
“5G will accelerate the advantage of mobile technology because of the pace of mobile innovation and the dependency of WiFi network experiences on the quality of fixed network broadband deployments which are slow and expensive to upgrade with fiber to the premise (FTTP),” OpenSignal said.
It added the performance of WiFi has started to decline because of challenges such as congestion of airwaves, where multiple users in an area are all trying to ride on the same spectrum at the same time.
Meanwhile, for mobile networks, operators are asked to pay a fee for an exclusive use of frequencies, keeping its performance “more predictable and consistent than WiFi,” it said.
Local telecommunications operators PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. have already started efforts to bring 5G to the Philippines. Two weeks ago, PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. fired up its first two 5G cell sites in Makati City and Clark, Pampanga. Globe is also eyeing to roll out its 5G network by second quarter of 2019.
“The pace of innovation is faster in the mobile industry than in almost any other industry. This will continue with 5G rollouts which help mobile to leapfrog the experience of WiFi in countries where operators are slow to roll out full fiber to the premise connections because of capital cost concerns or logistical issues such as planning approvals,” OpenSignal said.
But it noted that while mobile networks may continue to improve, it will not remove WiFi from the picture as the co-existence of the two will only have to change, especially the notion that WiFi is always faster than mobile network.
“WiFi 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 WiFi. But WiFi still has a role,” it said.
OpenSignal said WiFi remains to be cheaper, more accessible across different devices, and able to handle a bigger capacity compared to mobile network.
However, operators and device manufacturers must start considering the changing landscape that mobile network is starting to gain greater reliability than WiFi.
Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez
With LTE, in 63% of countries smartphones users enjoy faster download speeds on Mobile than on WiFi