There are two popular ways people connect to the internet using their Internet ready devices: WiFi or mobile networks. The installed Wi-Fi could be the old copper cable network that is fed to your home or the newer fibre optic cable ones that are much faster.
You would think that due to the proliferation of the fiber optic network and the subsequent result of having fast Wi-Fi at home, it would mean that Wi-Fi is faster than the LTE speeds on our phones. This is usually the case in some scenarios, but is not entirely the case everywhere.
OpenSignal conducted a research study called The State of WiFi vs Mobile Network Experience as 5G Arrives and it had some interesting outcomes.
They found out that in 33 countries, which includes Kenya, smartphone users experience faster average download speeds using a mobile network than using Wi-Fi. The interesting bit is that this behaviour was observed all over the world, including some rich countries like Australia.
In Kenya, they found an interesting statistic regarding LTE speeds vs Wi-Fi speeds. Apparently LTE downloads in the country on average are 9.9 mbps faster than Wi-Fi for smartphones. In comparison with other African countries, South Africa’s delta is 12.2 mbps, Morocco is 9.0 mbps and Algeria is the least at 3.8 mbps. Lebanon tops this list with a delta of 25 mbps between the technologies
OpenSignal attributes this behaviour due to three reasons: Relative ease of cellular deployments, smartphone design priorities not focusing on Wi-Fi and most phones don’t work on 5Ghz and are limited by the congested 2.4Ghz spectrum.
Comparing this with the other end of the spectrum where in highly developed countries, Wi-Fi is faster than cellular experiences where in Hong Kong, Singapore and the US, the findings were -38.6 Mbps, -34 Mbps and -25 Mbps respectively.
The report also highlighted the assumption that Wi-Fi was better than mobile networks and this was actually the case 10 years ago when we had 2G networks. It was also cheaper than the alternative mobile data plan and had better capacity (unlimited plans).
Since we are at the cusp of moving on to 5G networks, this will become even faster. Operators are targeting usable speeds in the 1-3 Gbps and the difference in Wi-Fi speeds vs cellular speeds might change dramatically in the near future.