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UK mobile users ‘would prefer 3G to Wi-Fi’

Security worries and fiddly sign-ups to blame, survey finds.

By Vinod

Given the choice, UK consumers would much prefer to use mobile broadband than connect to a public Wi-Fi network, a survey has found.

Growing fears around the security of unsecured Wi-Fi networks, heightened by a number of recent high-profile studies and attacks, mean that British consumers prefer the safety of the internet access provided by their operators.

When asked, nearly two-thirds (63%) of UK consumers said that they would prefer to use mobile broadband if they had a strong connection, with 26% saying they would choose a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Security was the biggest contributing factor towards avoiding public Wi-Fi, with over a third of respondents naming this as their biggest single problem with such networks.

Complicated sign-up forms used by access points, sporadic coverage, performance and price were also cited as major issues for consumers, who also expressed worry about the amount of information Wi-Fi network providers might gather on them.

Just over half of respondents (52.7%) said that they would only use a Wi-Fi hotspot if there was a very poor or no mobile broadband signal, despite much of the UK having access to such networks.

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Mark Jackson, Editor of ISPreview.co.uk, commented that mobile broadband services "are improving all the time", especially since the advent of faster 4G networks.

He said many consumers now see related connectivity as "a better and more readily available option" for internet access than public Wi-Fi.

The results come from a survey by comparison site ISPreview.co.uk, which quizzed 827 people on their internet usage habits.

The findings clash with those from mobility management firm iPass, whose CEO Evan Kaplan told CBR this week that it found business users in particular have a "Wi-Fi first" mentality, due to higher reliability on connections. A recent survey by the company found that 80% of business users would prefer to use Wi-Fi over mobile data when working outside the office in what it called "an unquenchable thirst for data" related to their need for videoconferencing and unified communications tools.

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