A major global mobile connectivity and network usage study has shown that the UK still lags behind the US and Europe in 4G use.
Mobile data platform Ogury says the survey raises fresh questions around the need to improve 4G, before investing so heavily in its next iteration, 5G.
The survey shows that UK mobile users are using 4G to connect to the internet just 18% of the time on average; that the UK ranks bottom in 4G usage behind Italy, Spain, France and the USA; and that the UK relies on WiFi more than any other country.
The study was based on proprietary data collected direct-from-device to build over 300 million mobile behaviour profiles across 120 countries.
The UK results, based on the data of over 1 million UK mobile profiles, examined the networks used to connect to the internet over a month-long period. While the National Infrastructure Commission recently reported that a typical Brit can access 4G 53% of the time, Ogury claimes that in reality, mobile users are connecting via 4G on average just 18.18 per cent of the time, relying on WiFi for 71.01% of their browsing time.
UK mobile users rely on WiFi to connect more than neighbouring countries, connecting via WiFi 71% of the time, against 53% in France, 66% in Spain, 53% in Italy and 49% in the US.
Londoners are most prolific 4G users in the UK, using it to connect 28% of time against the UK average of 18%.
The data finds that the UK is trailing behind the US (46.08% 4G usage), France (30.34%), and both Spain and Italy (20.46% and 20.3% respectively).
The results lead Ogury to question whether the UK is 5G ready.
Christophe Bize, VP of Data and Mobile Analytics at Ogury, comments: ‘UK mobile users currently rely on WiFi for the vast majority of their connections. Whether this is because of poor 4G availability, personal preference or even cost, it does not bode well for 5G.’
Predictably, the survey highlights patchy 4G coverage, with regions such as Scotland’s Highlands and Islands among the worst performing, with just 6.26% of mobile connectivity made via 4G. Wales follows at 8.58%; North Eastern Scotland at 9.46%; the South West of England at 9.59% and Northern Ireland at 9.71%.
In contrast, mobile users within the Greater London area spend an average of 28.02% of time connected to 4G, the highest level in the UK. Londoners are least likely to connect via WiFi, with mobile users in the area spending an average of 54.72% of their connected device time this way, compared to the UK average of 71.01%.
High WiFi usage of Scottish (81%) and Welsh (84.68%) users could be attributed to the poor availability and speed of 4G. However, Ogury found that mobile users in Northern Ireland are the most likely to connect via WiFi (using it for 86.14% of connection time), despite having excellent availability and download speeds according to a recent study by OpenSignal. Ogury suggests that this could be due to Northern Ireland, and particularly Belfast’s, growing reputation as a tech hub.
The Ogury report follows a recent document from the National Infrastructure Commission concluding that Britain’s 4G network ranks 54th, beneath Albania, Panama, Peru and Romania.
The document by the National Infrastructure Commission particularly emphasised poor 4G coverage along transport hubs such as railways, roads and city centres, which are prone to ‘not-spots’.