The high street is turning into the i-street, as the rise of wireless-enabled smartphones, tablets and other devices sees more than 10 million Britons a week logging on to public WiFi while out and about, new research reveals.
The figures from The Cloud, the biggest high street WiFi provider in the UK, show that almost a quarter of the nation (22%) uses WiFi in shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and other public venues every week – with a hardcore 2.8 million (6%) logging on every day, the equivalent of one in 10 smartphone users.2
Among techier 25-34-year-olds, this rises to one in three people accessing a high street hotspot each week (33%) – and one in 11 (9%) every day.
And with an estimated 28 million Britons now owning smartphones, and 7.3 million tablets,3 the research also reveals the extent to which wireless internet usage out and about is no longer the preserve of young people or Londoners.
A fifth of 45-54-year-olds (19%) use public WiFi at least once a week, as do 10% of people aged 55 or older.
And although London boasts the greatest proportion of high street WiFi users (47%), the North East (42%) and South West (40%)
Moreover, data from The Cloud’s own national network of more than 18,000 hotspots show that users in other cities are more prolific ‘WiFiers’ than Londoners. While people in the capital appear to be “WiFi snackers” – quickly logging on to check emails or social media – users in Nottingham, Cardiff and Sheffield spend at least 50% longer online in a typical session.
Likewise, public WiFi users in Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham and Reading download on average 50% more data per session than Londoners, with people in Brighton downloading almost double.
Overall, one in three users (35%) log on for more than 15 minutes on average, and nearly one in 10 (8%) for more than half an hour.
According to The Cloud’s own data, there were more than two billion minutes spent online using public WiFi in the first 10 weeks of 2013 alone, with more than 800 million megabytes of information downloaded in total.
Vince Russell, managing director of The Cloud, said: “As smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices become ubiquitous, we’re increasingly looking to take our in-home internet experience out and about with us. With 3G connections frequently throttled and 4G not yet a mass-market proposition, this means many of us are turning to high-speed WiFi.
“As a result, we’re seeing shops, cafes, pubs, gyms and other places where people live their lives looking to meet this demand by offering free WiFi to their customers.
“Some seven million people pass through The Cloud’s venues every day, with hotspots ranging from Wick in the Highlands to Penzance in Cornwall, all in the kinds of venues where people want to take time to surf the web, catch up on emails, news and sport, and even listen to music or stream HD video.”
There are 200 new venues added to The Cloud’s network every week. Its hotspots are in major high street venues and public places, such as Greggs, Caffé Nero, PizzaExpress, Wetherspoon pubs, Eat, Pret A Manger, Wagamama, WH Smith, the City of London, and Network Rail and London Overground stations.
All Sky Broadband Unlimited, Sky Fibre Unlimited and Sky Connect customers are eligible for free, unlimited access to The Cloud WiFi via Sky’s app, WiFi Hotspots from The Cloud.