With growing demand for continuous connectivity, people expect to be able to access online
services whenever and wherever they are. Seamless movement between wireless networks, the
availability of internet services, data and call allowances are all important factors that affect our
expectations and experience of using mobile networks.
Ofcom found that just over two-thirds of the time (69%), people were connected to wi-fi rather than
cellular networks when using their mobile devices.
When they were connected to cellular networks (2G, 3G, 4G), 82% of the time was spent connected to 4G. This varied depending on where people were and which mobile network they used. People in urban areas were more likely to be connected using wifi – and in turn 4G – than those in rural areas, which can be attributed to the greater access to wi-fi in offices and public spaces, and higher availability of 4G networks in urban areas.
But often a connection is not enough: the majority of mobile apps need access to data services in
order to provide full functionality. Our analysis shows that when people were connected to 4G
networks, they were able to use data services on average 98.8% of the time. This average was lower
for 3G connections, which were nearly four times more likely to fail than 4G connections.
Throughout the day the proportion of tests that failed on both 3G and 4G remained constant,
despite more people connecting to the network during peak times.
One thing that did vary significantly throughout the day was consumers’ data use. The proportion of
data used on cellular networks peaked between 5 and 6pm, when people were likely to be travelling
home from work, while the proportion of wi-fi use was higher between 6 and 10pm when they were
more likely to be at home and have access to wifi.
The amount of data used over wi-fi was much higher than on mobile technologies; only 10% of
people used more than 5GB of mobile data on average each month, compared to 47% on wi-fi. Just
under half of people used less than 500MB of mobile data each month.
How people are using voice calls
Mobile voice calls remain an important means of communication for most consumers. Ofcom crowdsourced data showed that 94% of panellists made a call during the three months of the fieldwork period, and 96% of panellists made or received a call.
The average number of outgoing calls each month varied greatly from person to person. Of those who made calls, just under a fifth made between one and five calls on average each month, meaning 24% made five or fewer calls a month. In contrast, almost a third of those who made calls made more than 50 calls per month.
However, looking at the length of these calls shows a very different picture. More than 80% of calls were shorter than five minutes, with 60% under ninety seconds, suggesting that mobile users are making frequent but relatively short calls.
The average outgoing call lasted just over four and a half minutes, with significant differences by nation, rurality and day of week. People in rural Scotland spent longer on calls than those in other rural areas, while those rural Northern Ireland had the shortest average call length overall at just over three minutes. Calls in Liverpool lasted longer than those in other cities in the dataset, at an average of just under seven minutes. Weekend calls were slightly longer on average than weekday calls, at just under five minutes compared to four and a half minutes.