Study unsurprisingly shows WiFi usage increased during lockdown.

A study by Opensignal found wifi usage increased but 4G speeds fell.

a man working on a laptop in a modern european apartment by a large window

Saturday, 13 June, 2020


Mobile network testing experts, Opensignal, have released a new analysis of data usage during lockdown. The study shows something which anyone could have guessed. We have been using wifi for our phones more than our mobile data.

Normally there are around 1.5 million people working from home in the UK, only around 5% of workers. As a result of Coronavirus this figure shot up to almost 50% of people working from home in April 2020.

It’s important to remember these figures don’t include all the people at home on furlough who aren’t working. So it’s understandable why most of us have switched to wifi usage over broadband.

Opensignal’s report shows that our wifi usage peaked in March and has been in decline as lockdown softens. The study shows the UK’s time on WiFi peaking at 77.9% for the week of 30th March.

4 Gee!

However one something surprising during all of this increased wifi usage was the mobile network speeds. You would think that higher wifi use would mean less mobile data usage. In turn you would assume mobile speeds would be faster due to less network traffic. Well, you would actually be wrong!

4G download speeds began to decrease during lockdown around the world. In the UK our 4G download speeds fell by a whopping 29% during the first week of lockdown! This could be explained by people still adapting to lockdown. Maybe people forgot to turn on their mobile wifi connection for a few days. Or maybe people spent their days in the parks during good weather.

Opensignal also suggested several potential causes for the decrease in speed.

We identified a number of drivers that have likely contributed to those speed drops, including increasing mobile data consumption, operators relaxing data limits, changes in the time and location of users’ mobile usage, as well as pre-emptive measures adopted by operators to ensure continuity of service on their networks

- OpenSignal

All you can eat.

As Opensignal said, in response to the crisis many networks offered a relaxation of their data limits. So people may also have gone a bit mad taking advantage of this. Sort of like an eyes bigger than your belly situation for your data consumption.

However after this initial sharp dip in speeds there was a steady increase. Presumably as people adapted to being confined to their homes and their broadband connection.

The UK seemed to have coped well with this transition period. Opensignal’s data shows the UK has a similar usage pattern to the rest of the world. However it also showed that many other other countries had long periods of network instability as a result of lockdown.

Natalie Dunning author picture


Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.