WiFi a firm habit in the UK

According to The Cloud, 22 per cent of the UK population uses WiFi in shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and other public venues every week and 2.8 million (6 per cent) log in every day.

There is lots of usage by a surprisingly (I thought) high proportion of the UK population - 10.6 million Britons log on to what The Cloud calls 'high street' WiFi every week. That's free hotspot WiFi usually made available to customers in shops, fast food outlets, cafes. These establishments comprise 'downtown' Britain - usually called the High Street. ?

The demographics are interesting too. The numbers are not hugely weighted to chatty teens stopping off at McDonalds or Costa after school - it all looks surprisingly evenly spread. Amongst what The Cloud calls the techier 25-34-year-olds, weekly usage rises to 33 per cent with one in 11 in this group accessing every day. But usage doesn't fall off a cliff with the arrival of middle age - rather it glides down with 19 per cent of the 45-54-year-olds still making at least one WiFi connection a week and 10 per cent of the those aged 55 or older doing so as well.

The UK's second (and below) tier cities show similar usage patterns to London. It does have the highest proportion of users, as you'd expect (47 per cent), but the other big cities are also up there, most figuring in the 40-50 percentile range. The national average is 37 per cent, giving London users just 10 points' lead. On the other hand most of the other big cities' users spend much longer online.

The Cloud interprets this continuing rise as a reflection of users wanting to take their superior "home WiFi" experience with them when they're out and about. That and the fact that they are usually capped on their 3G cell service is presumably making public WiFi a habit that might prove difficult to change, even when cell can provide a better 'experience' (ie go fast enough).

I've heard anecdotal evidence that because smartphones are set to default to WiFi instead of mobile broadband if it's available, users are often experiencing objectively lower performance levels over WiFi. Some app needs to tell them, but then operators are probably happy to have users use the free WiFi so as to keep their own broadband services humming.

The Cloud says it has 18,000 hotspots in the UK and is adding 200 new venues to its network every week.

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