Study: Brits prefer WiFi for online on the move

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UK mobile phone users are more likely to use WiFi to get online than mobile data, according to communications regulator Ofcom’s Mobile Matters report, which analyses how around 150,000 people used their Android phone between January 1st and March 31st 2019. The study sheds new light on people’s experience of making calls and getting online on the move.

Overall, the number of minutes people spend on mobile calls has risen steadily in recent years. But Ofcom’s previous studies have also showed that younger people find making calls daunting, and prefer to use messaging services such as WhatsApp.

The research reveals a quarter of people made less than five mobile calls a month, with 6 per cent of people not making any standard mobile calls at all. Of those who did pick up the phone, almost two-thirds (60 per cent) ended the call in less than 90 seconds.

Ofcom also compared how long people in 10 major UK cities spend on conversations from their mobile.

Liverpudlians came top, spending almost seven minutes on the average call – more than 40 per cent longer than Londoners, who came second; and twice as long as people in Bradford, who had the shortest conversations.

On average, Liverpudlians spend six minutes and 51 seconds on the phone. In Bradford you’ll take a speedy three minutes and 15 seconds.

People increasingly expect to use their mobile to get online wherever they are – whether to scroll through social media, use online banking or stream their favourite TV show.

The new research, which helps Ofcom to understand mobile users’ needs, shows that they spend most of their time online connected to WiFi (69 per cent), rather than using 3G or 4G. This helps explain why more than half of us (60 per cent) use less than 1 gigabit (GB) of mobile data a month, and only one in 10 (10 per cent) use 5GB or more.

When people are using their mobile data, they are mainly connected to 4G (82 per cent of time). And when they are in an area where a 4G network is available, they are generally able to get online whenever they attempt to (98.8 per cent of the time).

Mobile data use peaks between 5 and 6pm, as rush-hour commuters look to catch-up with the latest news and scroll social media using their phone network.

“People use their mobile in different ways around the country,” notes Ian Macrae, Director of Market Intelligence at Ofcom. “But whether it’s for going online or having longer chats, a good signal has never been more important. So people can take several practical steps to boost their reception and stay connected.”

While 92 per cent of UK properties can get basic mobile reception from all four mobile networks, some people still struggle for a signal at home.

So as well as measures to boost mobile coverage, Ofcom has published a new online guide to offer help on improving indoor reception. There are alternative ways to make and receive calls if users have a poor mobile signal:

  • WiFi calling – a feature that allows smartphone users to make calls over their broadband network, if mobile reception is patchy;
  • Indoor boosters – small pieces of kit that connect to a mobile provider’s network via a user’s broadband connection.

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