Unable to connect: Chains lag behind independents in Wi-Fi stakes

As part of a major study into the public Wi-Fi offered at 100 commercial premises across northern England by Manchester-based web hosting company 34SP.com, the speeds at dozens of restaurants, bars and cafes have been independently tested. The 34SP.com Public Wi-Fi Survey 2015 was set up to test the assumption that established chains, which typically have far greater resources to spend on cutting-edge technology, offer faster Wi-Fi to customers than their independent counterparts.

For each venue, 34SP.com recorded three key metrics: download speed (how fast data such as website pages can be downloaded from the web), upload speed (how fast data such as social media updates, pictures or videos can be uploaded to the web) and ping speed (how fast the round-trip time for messages sent to a host from a device is, which is important for activities such as video calls). Higher is better for download speed and upload speed, while lower is better for ping speed.

Across chains as a whole, it found that the typical download speed is 6.46mbps whereas the average for independents is 10.99mbps. There was an even wider gap in upload speed, with chains posting a typical upload speed of just 0.52mbps compared to the average for independents of 4.79mbps. And there was also a marked difference in ping speed – the typical ping speed for chains is 138.84ms as opposed to the average for independents of 46.38ms.

So independents offer 70 per cent higher download speeds than chains. Moreover, independents boast nine times higher upload speeds and the ping speed for independents is only a third of that for chains.

The commercial premises with the best public Wi-Fi in the entire study was also an independent. The Bar in South Manchester recorded the fastest download speed (36.11mbps), the fastest upload speed (18.08mbps) and one of the lowest ping speeds (31ms). The worst public Wi-Fi belonged to the Manchester branches of restaurant chain Zizzi Ristorante and hotel chain Travelodge – neither connection worked during testing.

So on every score, independents beat chains in the Wi-Fi stakes.

Daniel Foster, co-founder and technical director of Manchester-based web hosting company 34SP.com, said: ‘Our research suggests that independent restaurants, bars and cafes offer much faster public Wi-Fi speeds than the big chains. So if you want to quickly access the web on your mobile while out and about, steer well clear of big-name brands.’

More generally, the research indicates that public Wi-Fi is still a long way behind other means of getting online.

The average download speed for public Wi-Fi across chains (6.46mbps) and independents (10.99mbps) in the 34SP.com Public Wi-Fi Survey 2015 is substantially slower than the average UK download speed of 18.7mbps for residential broadband. Perhaps more surprisingly, the study also reveals that many public Wi-Fi offerings are substantially slower than 4G (accessible from the latest mobile devices in towns and cities) and even 3G (accessible from many older mobile devices and in more remote areas). The average download speed on 4G is 15.1Mbps while the average download speed on 3G is 6.1Mbps.

Foster added: ‘Nowadays, the general public is spoilt for choice when it comes to getting online. There are literally millions of wireless networks across the UK in 2015 and consumers are increasingly heading to restaurants, bars and cafes that offer great internet access as well as great food and drink. Meanwhile, the slowest public Wi-Fi connections have already been eclipsed by 4G and in some cases even 3G.

‘Businesses that fail to offer good Wi-Fi speeds to their customers are missing out financially because these consumers typically spend lots of money on snacks and drinks while they surf. When you consider how little it costs for businesses to set up public Wi-Fi, the investment effectively pays for itself within weeks.’

For more information, please visit www.34sp.com

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