Wi-Fi is the dominant data access technology for mobile device users, in both countries where high-speed cellular networks are ubiquitous and where mobile data infrastructure is poor, according to a new report from wireless coverage mapping firm OpenSignal.

The Global State of Mobile Networks study, based on 12.3 billion measurements taken by 822,556 OpenSignal users in an 84 day period, found that smartphone users spent more than 50 per cent of their time connected to Wi-Fi, with Netherlands the most mobile Wi-Fi hungry country, where it accounted for 70 per cent of all smartphone connections.

“You could argue that in many places Wi-Fi has become a far more important mobile data technology than 3G or 4G,” noted the report.

wifiThe top 20 countries for mobile Wi-Fi are also diverse (see chart left – showing the percentage of time that users in each country were connected to Wi-Fi networks rather than cellular networks in the tests – click to enlarge) with several of the most developed countries making the cut, which highlighted the point that high Wi-Fi usage was not only in countries where 4G networks are underdeveloped.

Among those countries in the top 20 included China, Germany and UK, as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Trinidad and Tobago.

“There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether a country’s smartphone users seek out Wi-Fi: cost and availability of broadband, the affordability of mobile data, the prevalence of public hotspots and even cultural attitudes,” noted the report.

Mobile networks
Meanwhile, in terms of mobile networks, 3G still “forms the backbone for mobile data services in many places”, found the report, while 2G also reigns supreme in many of the world’s developing nations.

The report, which aimed to take a “holistic look at mobile networks”, found that while LTE has become the dominant mobile data technology in countries like South Korea, Japan and the US, dozens of countries have yet to launch their first 4G service, and many others are only in the infancy of their LTE rollout.

“Wi-Fi obviously plays a big role in mobile data services today, but the big question is how long its outsized influence will continue,” concluded the report. “As more countries push the boundaries of 4G technology — and adopt new 5G technologies in the future — the perceived differences between the two technologies may disappear.”