back to article Mobile networks are killing Wi-Fi for speed around the world

Ofcom's top tech bod, Mansoor Hanif, recently gave the Wi-Fi industry a roasting, telling them to shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance. New network data from around the world shows that slide has already begun. OpenSignal has found that mobile networks already outpace a customer's Wi-Fi connection, on average, in 33 …

  1. drgeoff

    I'm a tight bar steward and don't give a monkey's if the free Wi-Fi my phone is connecting to is slower than the metered 3/4/5G network which I have to pay for.

    1. Mr Han

      Exactly. This would be a story if mobile data plans were anywhere near as affordable as home broadband.

      Money would be better spent expanding 3g coverage and removing 3g data caps.

      1. Wade Burchette

        Expanding 3G? Please. Here in the US of A, I can take you to several places where there is not 1G service. And every carrier has large areas without 1G service. Why are we bothering with 5G when the providers still haven't gotten 1G right?

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          @Wade

          You just described the entire State of Vermont. Which also lacks decent broadband & landlines. (Most of the State can only get DSL.)

          Phones should automatically monitor the quality of all connection types they can access at a given moment, and have user settings to (1) go with the best one, (2) go with the best free one, or (3) go with a specific one.

        2. born_free_taxed_for_life

          sorry 1g? whats 1g? We start at 2g

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            1G is what came before GSM (aka 2G) ie. what the UK had in the mid 1980's and where the phones were so big you needed a car to carry and power them - hence Carphone Warehouse...

            1. DaLo

              1G was analogue, 2G was the first digital implementation. 1G could be intercepted by a standard radio scanner.

            2. BOBSta

              In UK, the original Analogue cellular networks from the 80's were backronymed to 1G when Digital GSM was introduced as 2G in around 1992/3. GSM was digital duplex voice-only.

              GPRS was added to that around 99/2000 to include data, but throughput was very variable maxing out at around 9KB/s in real world .

              EDGE (EGPRS) was 2.5G (a data speed improvement over GPRS which boosted data to around 24-30KB/s) before the 3G (UMTS) explosion in 2003 through Orange and Three.

              1. defiler Silver badge

                GPRS was added to that around 99/2000 to include data, but throughput was very variable maxing out at around 9KB/s in real world

                You're close. GSM would support data (did on my old 8210), but at 9600bps. GPRS would go up to 45kbps. Given the dial-up alternatives it wasn't awful. I believe it gets about 115kbps these days, but that's still awful for modern web pages...

          2. illiad

            2g is second generation, and of course the first cell phones were first generation!! (NO, NOT Gigahertz, idiot!!)

            Do clarify, by NO 1g, do you just mean 'no service' or what??

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              @ drgeoff

              I hear you, but there are situations where a phone will hold onto a WiFi signal so weak that web pages won't load, so I have to switch it off to force it onto a strong 4G signal.

              What costs me money is forgetting to switch WiFi back on again later.

              What would be handy would a 'disable WiFi for 20 minutes' button.

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                "What would be handy would a 'disable WiFi for 20 minutes' button."

                If you're running Android, install Tasker. It would take about 5 minutes to create a Tasker script that would give you such a button.

              2. aelking

                What would be handy would a 'disable WiFi for 20 minutes' button.

                Windows phone 10 has this feature built in. How I Miss it.

        3. John Robson Silver badge

          "

          Expanding 3G? Please. Here in the US of A, I can take you to several places where there is not 1G service. And every carrier has large areas without 1G service. Why are we bothering with 5G when the providers still haven't gotten 1G right?"

          It is right - it's making them money - if you live in a not spot then that's your problem, not the operators.

        4. BOBSta
          Facepalm

          @Wade Burchette

          While I broadly agree that carriers need to provide full coverage with a basic service, 1G, 2G and 2.5G all need to be killed off. It must be possible to provide full 3G coverage for both voice and data everywhere now?

          In the UK, on Three on my personal phone, when I have a signal it is 3G and the voice quality is great, when I don't I have no service (that happens too often). On my work phone (O2), it frequently "drops back" to horrible quality on 2.5G or 2G in an attempt to keep connected.

        5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Here in the US of A, I can take you to several places where there is not 1G service.

          This is developed world talk.

        6. Jim 59

          Home broadband is predictable. LTE data isn't. Yes, you might stumble upon an urban location where high 3g/4g speeds are available. Perhaps in the middle of a car park, in a half empty business estate, after 6 pm. On one such UK location, I measured LTE upload speeds faster than my home broadband. A novelty but not all that useful.

          In places where you actually spend time, so do other subscribers, and the rate drops.

      2. john.jones.name

        the data is flawed

        flawed in so many ways that its completely meaningless

        3G / LTE data is proxyed/altered ALL of the time while Wifi data only some of the time by the upstream provider e.g. DNS requests

        interesting that opensignal earn money publishing it for the 3G/LTE providers though...

        1. Giovani Tapini
          Go

          Re: the data is flawed

          wifi - overshared - cheap ad ridden proxies - poor deployments at scale, can however create a private network and secure it yourself

          5g - expensive - crap back haul moving bottleneck back but not eliminating it. - cant create a private network with it, security based on provider trust only.

          I'm sorry I don't think 5g is in a position to start roasting yet, particularly while it remains the preserve of telco's

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My unmetered 3g/4g is cheaper than my unmetered WiFi and much faster and more convenient.

      However WiFi is available for everyone in the house, including guests, and all wifi devices, my SIM is locked into my phone. Now I could create a wifi hotspot, but that would require me to always have my phone in the house, at which time it becomes unpractical.

      I could install a 4G -> wifi router but then the economics start to dissolve, with all connections being metered. Using a spare phone as a wifi hotspot permanently doesn't have the range of good mimo router and is probably beyond the fair use policy.

  2. Chris Gray 1
    Stop

    Cost!

    The main reason for using WiFi at home is that it uses your home broadband connection to get to the internet instead of your phone's data plan. For many folks that costs a whole lot less - e.g. almost unlimited at no extra cost for home broadband, versus limited and expensive for phone data.

    Away from home it'll depend on any costs to ride on someone else's WiFi, but I expect it'll still be cheaper than phone data on many plans.

    This is the case for me, and I expect for lots of other folks too.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Cost!

      I have data permanently off on my phone.

      I use WiFi on it (late when laptop shut down) or if relative / friend /office.

      That's free.

      Also 10 to 50 times faster.

      The peak speed of a cell is not the speed users get in busy periods in an economically used mast.

      Ofcom are a lobbyist for mobile companies (see their submission about roaming charges during consultation) and like Comreg get most of their income from Mobile operators. It's nonsense.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Cost?

      My home broadband is a 4G connection (not via the 'phone, though I have that as emergency backup since it's on a different network). Cost is rather less than fixed line phone+broadband or a virgin cable Heisenconnection.

      I shall await with interest what deals appear for 5G, and whether it becomes as ubiquitous in 'puters as wifi is today.

      1. illiad

        Re: Cost?

        The confusion is that 4G is normally on cellphones, so linked to a cell plan - please give details about *how* you get your broadband... name, details etc :)

        1. sed gawk

          Re: Cost?

          1) buy Android phone that does "mobile hotspot"

          2) buy Three mobile payg sim.

          3) buy 35-quid unlimited data + calls bundle for three mobile

          That's it really, I browse - ssh, do various Linux tasks, watch iplayer, netflix etc.

          I can only offer the complaint that when using the telephony ability of the handset, the wifi throughput tends to degrade to the point of unusablity.

          An oft overlooked benefit of this approach is entirely battery powered nature of the endeavour.

          1. BOBSta
            Flame

            Re: Cost?

            @sed gawk - I used to run my home broadband like this from a Samsung S4mini, but with the data usage I had while working from home and the phone being plugged in to charger all the time, I went through one battery every nine months! They expanded to the point of near explosion (hence icon) and popped the back of the phone casing off!

            Also, range was pants. In the study it was fine, but more than one room away and there was no WiFi. I had Netgear 13-amp plug range extenders, but so many problems.

            The speed was great on Three 3G (8.5 mbps down, 1.6 mbps up) when the village was on pre-FTTC ADSL (at dial-up speeds) until end of 2016. Since FTTC, it's been a no-brainer to go to a "proper" home broadband package and internal WiFi coverage is rock solid.

            1. sed gawk

              Re: Cost?

              @ BOBSta

              The range is shit but good enough for laptop and tv in same average sized room.

              Battery use is not really too bad given the "battery backing" idea is more on the move, given it spends almost all its time plugged into a usb dock.

          2. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Cost?

            does that three sim have a acceptable use limit? Seems a decent deal on the face of it. I have a low 8Gb three on £4.99 a month, that does me but having a bigger sim on a mifi would suit us for roaming about.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Cost?

              >does that three sim have a acceptable use limit?

              See conversation thread here:

              Go check the price plans - Three has a SIM only deal for £27 with unlimited data, which includes tethering (aka personal hotspot)

              However, if you move fast Three are offering an Unlimited Data/Minutes/Texts SIM for £20pm as a Black Friday deal. In theory you should be able to drop that SIM into your MiFi.

            2. sed gawk

              Re: Cost?

              @Danny14

              I've watched an entire boxset on it over an month without problems, YMMV but I think that I could saturated the bandwidth all month with only speed throttles as penalty.

              I don't feel short changed, I still prefer good old wired connectivity but TV is the only time I miss a fixed line connection, and a quick ssh tunnel through a server with a fixed connection provides a decent enough buffer that it's perfectly fine for watching e.g. IPlayer etc.

            3. BOBSta

              Re: Cost?

              @Danny14 - At the time, no it didn't have any acceptable usage or tethering limits. It don't have it any longer as it was costing me around £30/month. I don't believe there is any similar deal available currently? I could be wrong.

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Cost?

            >1) buy Android phone that does "mobile hotspot"

            This approach works when you only need to connect a few devices (typically up to 4) and they all effectively reside within your own personal cloud (ie. within circa 6m of the phone).

            Back in circa 2006, the poor mobile signal meant I had to put an external antenna on the roof, which in turn meant sourcing 3G dongles that supported an external antenna.

            Interestingly, whilst I have upgraded to FTTC, The 'ancient' Three system is still my DR option, as whilst its headline connection speed is significantly less than what my EE 4G handset claims it is getting, when it comes to reliably downloading stuff it outperforms the EE connection; but then that was to be expected, EE upgraded the local mast with 4G radio's, but it continued to use the 1Mbps backhaul...

          4. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Cost?

            As a USian, I am incredibly jealous that you have access to 4G service that is both cheap and reliable enough to make that a realistic usage scenario.

    3. cosmodrome

      Re: Cost!

      For anyone who knows the difference between WAN and LAN, sure. That might be how many percent of the general public? 0.02 on a lucky day not too far in the future?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Failover to cellular - support from manufacturers

    iPhone has had support for WiFi Assist since iOS 9: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT205296

    That’s more about signal strength than speed though, I think...

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This is arrant nonsense

    See title.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: This is arrant nonsense

      +1 for "arrant"

  5. steelpillow Silver badge

    Regional variations

    Was staggered how fast a 4G connection is at St Pancras station, massively beats my home WiFi/router/BTcopper-cos-sod-you-Sir. A fair bit slower in most provincial towns, but still comparable.

    Home 4G is a bit weak and consequently stutters/cuts out a lot, so can't really judge its native speed.

    Seriously considering giving myself a 4G through-the-wall thingy for Christmas. If I scrap my copper archaeology it'll pay for itself in a couple of years at most.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Regional variations

      >Was staggered how fast a 4G connection is at St Pancras station

      Suggest repeating your experiment at different times of the day and at different locations in and around the vicinity of St.P.

    2. Ardkin

      Re: Regional variations

      Built a new house on established plot. Telco wanted 4000AUD to dig a new cable across the road to my kerb. I said f'dat, bought a 4G modem and never looked back...until I start sharing my bandwidth with that pesky high rise they're building over there, at least

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Regional variations

        > Built a new house on established plot. Telco wanted 4000AUD to dig a new cable across the road to my kerb. I said f'dat, bought a 4G modem and never looked back.

        In the UK, at least, when you build a new home BT Openreach *have* to subsidise your copper connection up to £3,000, so all you then pay is their "new connection fee" of <£200 (I don't know what it is, as when I attempted this, BTOpenreach couldn't pull it's finger out despite 3 months+ notice and 2 missed appointments, so I got FTTP from another supplier instead)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Regional variations

      Shame the signal in the rest of London is absoltely shit.

      Try getting any sort of connection at Kings Cross or around Holborn. Even Canary Wharf is a bit hit and miss on signal.

  6. Mookster
    Angel

    What is this "Metered Data Plan" of which you speak? Here in the Nordics, only mobile data _speed_ is limited, you can take as much as you like

    1. Def Silver badge

      Not in Norway.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      If you limit speed to 0, I'm sure you can connect at any time.

  7. Roland6 Silver badge

    The report also says...

    "Wifi offers smartphone users a faster experience in countries where fixed networks are relatively strong"

    So what is being measured here isn't "WiFi" v. 4G but something quite different.

    Once you start questioning the findings, you very rapidly realise this report has been written by someone with an LTE/4G agenda.

    Now perhaps Mansoor Hanif will do the honest thing and instead of giving yet more spectrum over to the mobile operators and make it free access...

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The report also says...

      Yes, let's have fibre to the premises and then Mobile will be x2 to x5 faster for those users that actually are not in a premises compared to today.

      Mobile is SHARED spectrum and is massively slower when it has users that could be using WiFi connected to VDSL, Fibre, Cable (HFC). Let's not have fake comparisons with a WiFi point on the end of 3km of aluminium twisted pair in Milton Keynes!

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: The report also says...

        >Let's not have fake comparisons with a WiFi point on the end of 3km of aluminium twisted pair

        Agree, however, it is valid to do the comparison in countries without a well developed fixed infrastructure ie. those who are effectively going from zero directly to mobile with wireless backhaul - where wireless is not the same as WiFi. But this approach probably doesn't provide the OTT soundbites that the hype merchants like.

      2. DaLo

        Re: The report also says...

        True, but every bit of bandwidth is shared regardless of the medium and to varying degrees.

        BT used to have a contention of 50:1 on the ADSL product - not sure what it is now or what it is on different products but probably a lot less. At various points you'll get contention on any connection.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: The report also says...

          BT used to have a contention of 50:1 on the ADSL product - not sure what it is now or what it is on different products but probably a lot less

          There is no longer a fixed ratio. Hasn't been since ADSL Max was launched because it becomes impractical when different customers on the same product can have different maximum speeds. These days providers manage capacity according to whatever performance/end-user experience they are targeting. Cheaper ISPs tolerate/allow more congestion than the expensive ones.

          But basically it comes down 'If a link is not performing adequately then upgrade it'. The difference between ISPs is how they define 'performing adequately' ;)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The report also says...

        It wont be long before MK's aluminium woes are long gone thanks to city fibre. They are within 1KM of my house now. 8)

    2. Bigmel

      Re: The report also says...

      Nah, max speed 4G is almost always faster than WiFi in a congested area, even with a beefy 100mbps+ fixed line behind it (at least where I live). The disparity will only grow with the introduction of 5g. The guys point is pretty spot on, whatever his agenda

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The report also says...

        Even with a hub that supports 5GHz connections? I'd like to see the numbers there. Plus it might be best to compare the two when BOTH are suffering contention (which would be the case in rush hour and the like).

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Anyway...

    Most of what I do is on the laptop. It, server, laser printer/scanner etc are all on 1Gbps ethernet.

    My broadband is only about 20Mbps down 2 Mbps up, but that has NO discernable cap and is always on and never slower. Mobile can even fail to connect.

    This compares Mobile with Fixed Wireless (FWA). Fibre, Cable and DSL < 1km distance are all superior to fixed wireless that beats Mobile. Done in 2005!

    So only mentions 4G later.

    Proven to be still true 13 years later!

    Even DSL that only only manages 3Mbps is on average better than 3G, 4G or 5G.

    WiFi can be 2Mbps to 250Mbps depending on range, number of clients, equipment etc. Not all network needs on WiFi use the Internet either, which is limited by the ISP final connection.

    The claims in the article are balderdash.

    1. Bigmel

      Re: Anyway...

      You try getting 250mbps in densely packed apartment block, even on ac. The max speeds you get on the more expensive 4g packages these days are as fast, if not faster than WiFi in such an environment, considerably less reliable though, I'll give you that

  9. goldcd

    Just to echo so many more of the comments

    Why is speed still considered to be such a big deal?

    Even the providers seem to be getting a bit non-plussed as to how to demonstrate the 'value' of their connections - I fondly remember the little sub-text explaining how many 'music files' you could download per minute. Or 3G "allowing video calls" (that nobody ever made).

    Highest 'normal' usage I can think of is a spangly Netflix 4k HDR stream - which comes in around 15M.

    You could do this on 3G HSDPA, to your phone (not that it could display it). LTE and 5G... well there's network efficiency for the operator, but current marketing seems to be confined to 'low latency' .. nice, but.. really, that's the best you can come up with?

    https://mediacentre.vodafone.co.uk/news/vodafone-makes-uks-first-holographic-call-using-5g/?cid=aff-wvm/mltprd/_1403995_/prch/5.18/pid=4150339&awc=1257_1543003182_99e42ccfe97e2dc338171ff75ca343f2

    Or to take another example, I upgraded my home connection (Virgin) to 200M - not because I need 200M, but because it was the only service they had with non-abysmal upload speeds.

    While back I noticed my download was 320M - and they hadn't even bothered to tell me, they knew I'd care so little (upload speed is still semi-shite though).

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Just to echo so many more of the comments

      @goldcd "Why is speed still considered to be such a big deal?"

      Beats me too,... I don't even get the video streaming angle, because I used to commute on the train, and there were dead spots (sidings, tunnels etc) so speed, is lovely and all, but coverage is essential. Same when I go surfing,.... it's Cornwall, so coverage is spotty, so I take rips of films to watch in the old caravan, like I used to on the train.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Just to echo so many more of the comments

      "Highest 'normal' usage I can think of is a spangly Netflix 4k HDR stream - which comes in around 15M."

      And you have four people in your house all streaming different shows, while one of them also downloads a game on Steam, and they're all looking at videos and other shit on WhatsFace while doing it. I really don't understand why every single time this issue comes up, people insist on declaring that since they only ever have a single person doing a single low-bandwidth activity, no-one could ever care about having more than 256kB of memory 15Mbps download speeds.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Just to echo so many more of the comments

        four people in your house all streaming different shows, while one of them also downloads a game on Steam, and they're all looking at videos and other shit on WhatsFace while doing it

        Of course, if you are going to do all that over 5G mobile, that's a heck of a lot of contracts you'll need unless you run the mobile through a capable router.

        Or you could, y'know, realise that four 15Mbit streams is only 60Mbit (crumbs, who has 4x 4k TVs all on at the same time?), that it's variable bitrate anyway and that there are quite a lot of ways - in some parts of the country - to get wired access speeds of 60 - 100Mbps. Lob in a couple of WiFi APs for those devices that can't be wired directly to the router, make sure to set them up sensibly with regard to location / band / channel* and job's a good 'un.

        M.

        *5GHz WiFi isn't necessarily the answer to everything - as I have discovered to my cost, there are an awful lot of devices out there (APs) which cannot use the whole 5GHz band (potentially 19 channels) for WiFi due to a lack of Dynamic Frequency Selection and Transmission Power Control. This limits them to just four channels at 5GHz, exactly the same as the four non-overlapping channels available at 2.4GHz in this neck of the woods, the difference being that up until now use of 5GHz has been a tiny fraction of 2.4GHz. It won't stay that way.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I best get 5g sorted then so I can watch 4k HDR 10-bit movies with Dolby vision sound on a seven inch screen.

  11. smartroad

    I barely get mobile signal at home. I am not even in a rural area, but a pretty large town. I depend on WiFi at home because, at best, I'll get 2G speeds on my mobile data.

    Before worrying about WiFi, OFCOM should be getting mobile providers to actually get universal coverage, indoors and outdoors, of 4G.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Before worrying about WiFi, OFCOM should be getting mobile providers to actually get universal coverage, indoors and outdoors, of 4G."

      The providers have got to the point in their coverage where expansion is hard. It's happening, although sites are removed as well as added if there are ownership changes or buildings are being replaced/altered, but not at a pace where marketing and sales benefit.

      5G on the other hand has a bigger number so its clearly better. Plus now sales and marketing have a half-assed study to prove it's better...

    2. Spazturtle Silver badge

      We won't get universal coverage until Ofcom gets rid of the rules banning towers from being taller the the average dutchman.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        We won't get universal coverage until Ofcom gets rid of the rules banning towers from being taller the the average dutchman.

        You've got a bit of a "thing" about taller masts, haven't you? Pity it's wrong though...

        Apart from making frequency reuse a bit of a problem, just because the signal from a cell site goes further from a tall mast it does not follow that the signal from the mobile will necessarily be strong enough to work.

        Having taller masts would be likely to cause more problems than it would solve.

  12. Kev99 Bronze badge

    But in the US where the FCC is owned by the telcos, speeds will remain pathetic until the telcos have milked consumers fry.

  13. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    ==

    I live in a neighborhood of stucco houses (stainless steel Faraday cages with an RF absorbing concrete shell) so my home WiFi and home LTE connection come from two devices on the same table on the same Internet connection.

  14. dermotw

    Yes its cost...

    Well, I am in what is I suppose an emerging country, namely Dubai, UAE, with fibre to the wall of my living room. And local WiFi is a much better deal than the 4/5G here, in terms of cost and speed. I don't see that suddenly changing....

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Yes its cost...

      Dubai is done emerging, my friend. It has emerged. One might even say it has had its coming out, and it is now parading in insane drag through the main street at all times.

      WiFi is good ? Color me astounded. I'm surprised you don't have a free fiber connection in every room.

      1. dermotw

        Re: Yes its cost...

        ohhh they haven't finished yet... :) and yes, the fibre upgrade by Etisalat was free, originally it was hardwired... :)

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Yes its cost...

      Good to hear that WiFi is good in the UAE. What's reception like in the prison cells they bung foreign students in?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes its cost...

      .. and then you have to throttle that link by going through a VPN to allow VOIP, BBC channels, etc - which is prohibited contents (e.g. Skype) as per the United Arab Emirates' Regulatory Framework.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...no mention anywhere of the impact on privacy....

    .....compare:

    1. [WiFi, mixed environment] My laptop, my server and my printers are on a local ethernet/WiFi LAN which is physically under my control. If I choose to connect to an external service (e.g.the internet), I can do so...but it's not a requirement.

    2. [5G network only] My laptop, my server and my printers are all required to communicate via 5G, meaning that everything I do is going through the 5G provider network and servers.

    *

    Other comments here about the cost of option 2 are also relevant. Other comments here that "speed isn't everything" are also relevant. But there are no comments at all here that PRIVACY is also an issue. For me the "5G everywhere" argument is an abomination -- which only people at GCHQ would want implemented!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: ...no mention anywhere of the impact on privacy....

      Except that you're incorrect. The LAN connection up to your hub IS private, but that's where it ends. Beyond that is not under your control any more than your wireless linkup (which can itself be hubbed up). Once the connection leaves your control, the ISP that provides your service can do all sorts of things to the connection: most of them beyond your control (and if you try to get around their control with encryption, which almost always can be detected--stego at this level is not guaranteed--well, they have ways to rain on that parade, too: ask the Chinese).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...no mention anywhere of the impact on privacy....

        @Charles_9

        Really? Detect away!

        0FF8A0A77E2888D71F3101C6A154F53C92508D83

        307E36236D2597850FFF0F85360A703E94A2F0F3

        6E30A2D691725AE5D0B444C04516D94A19A1A4AE

        6DCAB1B38B3EED8007506FAC5245632061155187

        601575BA2C1C2D96A64E70B8B24D036240F65869

        70B234D3DA1AAA165A3F229E74AFF4217FB647F0

        3B61269850

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: ...no mention anywhere of the impact on privacy....

          0F F8 don't correspond to any magic numbers on my list, so I'll err cautious and assume it's encrypted content and block it. What is it really and why should I let it through? Because what could happen to the ISP if they assume the worst?

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If only the retro nokia had 5g and worked as an access point

    I might use data on my phone in an emergency,

  17. bazza Silver badge

    Licensed Spectrum

    This is what happens when you put a highly optimised radio service running at high transmission power over lots of licensed spectrum up against another that's using the meagre amounts of open bandwidth, such as 2.4GHz on a limited transmission power.

    You can't beat reserved bandwidth and power. As the USAians would say about their car engines, you can't beat cubic inches. Not in a straight line, anyway.

    Pinching bits of bandwidth off the weather radars now and then (which is what 5GHz is doing) is kinda a hint that permitted "freeloading" is always going to be limited.

    Still, WiFi is very useful though!

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Licensed Spectrum

      'As the USAians would say about their car engines, you can't beat cubic inches. Not in a straight line, anyway.'

      Oh God you can. Due to a recent no fault on my part accident I had to replace my car (2 litre turbo diesel), in a fit of extravagance* I acquired a 2.6 litre petrol coupe. I am now kicking myself for my lack of research as it's got 5 less horses, a hundred less torques, and burns fuel twice as quickly. Seriously, how can a German manufacturer (and current F1 title holder at that) have made an engine that bad in any century?

      For the two of you who're wondering, I'm going back to the other German manufacturer of rear wheel drive cars before the cost of fuel bankrupts me.

      *i.e. spending almost all the money the insurers gave me.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Licensed Spectrum

        Ah well, presumably your new 2.6 isn't turbo charged. My commiserations.

        Stanley Hooker, he of Rolls Royce Merlin supercharger fames, points out that the effective displacement an engine is related to the volume and air charge pressure. He just happened to be very good at increasing the latter. However it's notable though that the Spitfire was at its very, very best when fitted with the larger RR Griffon engine, also supercharged.

        [Hooker went on to do some of the finest jet engines there ever were (Olympus, Pegasus, etc), and was very complimentary about Whittle in his book "Not Much of an Engineer". Whittle had worked out some fine detail about compressors that took Hooker quite a while to appreciate; Whittle really was a very clever man.]

        Today's 2.0 turbo diesels are very, very good at mimicking much higher displacements than their apparent size. You start needing something really quite large to match them for torque. As for why your 2.6 is feeling a bit weedy, that'll be the emissions target it's having to meet.

        Mr. Honda used to say that there's no fundamental reason why a petrol engine cannot match a diesel for thermal efficiency (which can also be equated to torque for a given capacity). And indeed Mazda's crazy new engines with a compression-spark ignition + variable compression ratio petrol cycle are pretty much there. If my next car isn't going to be a turbo diesel or pokey hybrid / electric, it'll have to be one of those Mazda engines. Interestingly Mazda and Toyota seem to be getting very chummy recently, and Toyota have a new battery technology (solid electrolyte Lithium Ions) which promises to significantly alter the charge / discharge characteristics.

        So we could be looking at a Mazda petrol engine with the driving characteristics of a diesel, coupled with a Toyota hybrid component using a battery with larger capacity and (apparently) super fast charging times. That really would destroy the old adages "there's no replacement for displacement".

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Licensed Spectrum

          'Ah well, presumably your new 2.6 isn't turbo charged.'

          No that is true and I did think that would at least partly explain the difference, but the 2 litre petrol version of my old car produces about the same power and torque as my new one while not drinking like a sailor who's just got paid. So I have to assume it was the work experience kids go at engine design when they produced this thing.

          2 Litre turbo-diesels do appear to be magic though.

  18. Matt Collins

    Silly idea, don't do it

    How is anyone in the house going to a) print to our household printers, b) access our WiFi NAS? Right now, these things work seamlessly even for our phones because they 'prefer' the WiFi.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Silly idea, don't do it

      All these things will be in the Cloud, so be thankful.

  19. frankieh

    Oddly enough. I'm in Australia on NBN fibre to the premises and even though I have a 100mbit connection, I'm only a couple of hundred metres from the 4G cell tower so the cellular is still faster than my MIMO Asus 802.11AC wireless. Talk about a 1st world problem though. Woe is me.. I only get 96mbit on wireless and I get 140 on 4G. Lol. Go back 3 years and my ADSL was 4mbit and my cellular speed was terrible 3G which often dropped down to 2G. Since ever or my current speeds, wifi or cellular are both perfectly able to stream 4K HDR porn, I fail to see a reason to bemoan the fact that the cellular is a little bit faster. :-)

  20. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    FAIL

    Wire-free - Wireless and Free

    I can take my mobiles, tablets and laptops to any number of my friends' homes all across the UK, even across the world, and can connect via Wi-Fi for the inconvenience of having to enter a password. These days I can also use hot spots in cafes and shops, on buses, trains and planes.

    I don't have to worry about what 'G' network is available or how much it costs. I don't even have to worry about my SIM having expired three years ago.

    So tell me again how mobile networks are "better".

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Wire-free - Wireless and Free

      Andrew is right, mobile networks are "better" ... until they are not - and then your service goes down the drain. Mobile providers provision their networks for the average usage - if your little city has 100,000 residents then they will reckon that provisioning for 50-70,000 connections is fine ... and it is, until it isn't. I live on the Gulf coast, we had good mobile coverage throughout Hurricane Katrina ... until the population of New Orleans moved in - our mobile coverage was complete crap for about six months.

      But my Wi-Fi worked fine.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Wire-free - Wireless and Free

        we had good mobile coverage throughout Hurricane Katrina ... until the population of New Orleans moved in - our mobile coverage was complete crap for about six months.

        Pretty-much the poster child of First World Problems. I expect I'd be the same, though. :)

  21. John Doe 6

    That is comparing Pineapples with Carrots!

    WiFi speed is effectively limited by your wire speed and as long both 3G/4G/5G and wire is provided by the same companies your wire speed will not reach 5G speeds (because they are more interested in feeding 5G transmitters with x10Gbit than deliver 10Gbit Ethernet to your home (and no WiFi AP supports currently more than 2x1Gbit).

  22. pleb

    They called it bloat

    My Galaxy Note 4 has a setting to "automatically switch between wifi and mobile networks ... to maintain a stable internet connection".

    Anyway, once things are 'good enough' then price becomes the decider. Wifi is most definitely more than good enough, so as long as it's cheaper then I'll stick to wifi, no matter how fast the more expensive alternative is.

  23. Ikoth

    Priorities

    There are lengthy stretches of the West Coast Main Line with no signal of any kind, Yep, that's right, one of the main UK North - South rail lines has patchy phone coverage. It's not like we're even a big country.

    I'd sooner see that fixed before the 5G bun fight starts.

    1. TobyDog

      Re: Priorities

      Hmmm, O2 asked me last week to comment on their signal. I rated them poorly on the basis that I commute on this line. They were a bit upset when I pointed out how bad their coverage was on one of Europe's busiest lines. It's not just the bit through the Chilterns either - have you ever tried to get a usable 4G signal on the train going through Camden of all places?

  24. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'So either people need to run an electricity cable up the wall of the building, or drill a hole for a power-over-Ethernet cable between them. And install the outdoor antenna on a bracket (like satellite dishes of yore). Not self-install'

    Speak for yourself Mr Spokesdroid, that sounds like a lazy Saturday afternoon to me.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Can you do mine next Saturday? Bring a long cable, I'm on the 23rd floor.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Why do you want the cable going to the ground floor? Or are the walls very thick?

        1. defiler Silver badge

          He needs it down where he can reach it to change the batteries...

  25. cosmodrome

    WiFi shaping up? Not going to happen

    WiFi is a typical "just works" thingy. You can't bother 99% of the user base with "programmer's stuff" like security, configuration or setting up access points or repeater in a way that doesn't make their (and their neighbours) problems even worse. So WiFi is a soon to be dead technology like RSS, desktop computers, eMail, HTML or everything else that has more than one button or requires anyone to get up and visit the outer world.

  26. idiotzoo

    Oh Rly???

    The mobile carrier industry would dearly love to get the claws into your corporate network, replacing your oh so slow WiFi with their high performance 5G+superfast but to do this they need access to your building to offer their managed service.

    Part of this strategy is to constantly talk down WiFi performance when, in reality, this report isn’t talking about WiFi at all but consumer dsl.

    The network I manage offers users realistic, reliable speeds that can be beaten by 4G offerings in some cases. On the rare occasions there’s been an issue with our network and all the users jumped onto the mobile carriers their network collapses under the load.

    Certainly in my experience the mobile networks are a long way from having the capacity to handle all the users.... which is why what they really want to do is replace your APs with their managed service offering which will largely be based on..... WiFi.

  27. smudge Silver badge
    Holmes

    Controlled glomming

    Currently a phone gloms onto a Wi-Fi network whenever it can, assuming this provides the user with a superior internet connection.

    My phone only gloms onto a network when I tell it to, and then I choose whether it's wi-fi or 4G.

  28. Bigmel

    He makes a fair point

    My 4G connection is regularly faster than my 130mbps fixed line (and most definitely beats it when I'm connected to that fixed line via WiFi) and with 60gb to play with, the metering isn't a huge issue. While 5g isn't the panacea some are claiming, any improvement on what you can already achieve with 4g really does have the potential to kick fixed line personal broadband in to irrelevance

  29. Baldrickk Silver badge

    who really cares about speed?

    If its fast enough, it's fast enough.

    How fast do you need a mobile network connection to be?

    About the most demanding thing I think most people might do on a phone is watch video.

    ok, if you use the mobile network for home internet, that's a different matter and you want large downloads (like games for example that can be ~60GB+) to complete as fast as possible, but on a phone?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: who really cares about speed?

      "How fast do you need a mobile network connection to be?"

      As fast as you think it should be...times five.

      Raise the factor if you have more than the average household, as everyone could easily be hammering the line at the same time...without anyone else knowing it. Plan for the worst case, not the average case.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: who really cares about speed?

        Plan for the worst case, not the average case.

        That's not how it works in most of the civilised world. Building a road bridge? What's the higher between traffic load and maximum wind load. Add a safety margin to that one factor, and you have the design load for the bridge.

        However, Sky Q tends to tear up the civilised part of wifi and wipe its arse with it, so you may have a point there.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: who really cares about speed?

          Then perhaps not worst case but at least a suitably bad case. Isn't that the big goal of engineering: to achieve bad-case planning on an average-case budget?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile networks are killing Wi-Fi for speed around the world - but

    ...but they wouldn't if everybody switched to WiFi.

    As has been said, its a capacity / shared resource thing.

    In the right area, with the right carrier aggregation, 4G LTE can offer speeds up to 600Mbps apparently. But that's shared by all the users in the cell. If you're practically the only user at a given time then... lucky you. But if everyone ditched their home broadband/WiFi, the LTE bandwidth per person would be very low indeed. Hence why it's generally priced, and technology configures, to switch to WiFi when it can.

  31. JohnFen Silver badge

    Irrelevance? Really?

    "Ofcom's top tech bod, Mansoor Hanif, recently gave the Wi-Fi industry a roasting, telling them to shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance."

    Not a chance.

    It makes no sense to me to replace one already hard-to-secure technology (WiFi) with an even harder-to-secure technology (5G). I absolutely don't want my LAN to be using the same transport as the internet. Period.

  32. xpz393

    Fixed operators to... "shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance"

    Give it around another 10yrs, and I can absolutely see this quote coming true. If 5G truly delivers consistently high speeds and low latency.

    A typical (non Reg-reading) household connects every single one of their Internet devices to their ISP supplied WiFi-router by default. Yes, even the 4K Smart TV which is less than a metre away from the bl**dy router!

    With virtual SIMs now in play, it wouldn’t be an unimaginable leap for all of these consumer devices to be able to connect to a 5G network instead of just WiFi.

    Inter-device connectivity within the home is already being tackled by vendors such as Sky Q and some premium home audio systems who simply use their own “mesh” network transparently in the background rather than using your WiFi or Bluetooth.

    The final piece in the puzzle is for the 5G providers to do their bit, by providing adequate in-home coverage, and competitive pricing options for unlimited data packages.

    Right now, us 30-somethings are amused by our retired-age parents who balk at the very idea of giving up their landline altogether. However, I suspect that in another 20-30 years, the young’uns will find my wired Internet connection & distributed WiFi AP setup a source of great amusement.

    It shall be my time to balk.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Fixed operators to... "shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance"

      >A typical (non Reg-reading) household connects every single one of their Internet devices to their ISP supplied WiFi-router by default. Yes, even the 4K Smart TV which is less than a metre away from the bl**dy router!

      I think you will find the default configuration used by Virgin Media is to link the TV box to the Internet via the WiFi. I discovered this the hard way after VM updated my inlaws service and router. I went in and changed the default WiFi SSID/PSK to something a little more useful and senior-user-friendly, subsequently they complained because the program guide etc. no longer worked. It took a walk through the TV Box settings to discover the configuration problem waiting to happen...

      1. xpz393

        Re: Fixed operators to... "shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance"

        "I think you will find the default configuration used by Virgin Media is to link the TV box to the Internet via the WiFi." - Roland6

        Considering that a substantial part of Virgin Media's offering is traditional fixed broadband, the conspiracy theorist may argue that they do have a vested interest in making their TV offering rely upon it in some way by default.

        However, I think the conspiracy theorist would be giving VM too much credit for lateral thinking on that one :-D

        It'll take time, but I can see it coming. Perhaps I was slightly off the mark, and what we'll see in the standard home market is a 5G version of the current xDSL home WiFi routers, eg same WiFi to the devices around the home, mains powered, with the WAN link being 5G instead of xDSL. This could also feature an external aerial socket to overcome indoor 5G coverage issues.

        D'ya know what, I think I've just landed on Version 2 of my vision already!

      2. David Roberts Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Fixed operators to... "shape up to 5G or face sliding into irrelevance"

        VM and WiFi - our latest Tivo box stubbornly refuses to connect over Ethernet but will work over WiFi. I assume they aren't that bothered because most people don't have wired Internet throughout the house.

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