Wi-Fi Roaming: Where are UK Smartphone Users’ Holiday Hotspots?

Posted on July 21, 2017

Wi-Fi takes on a whole new level of importance when we are travelling overseas. Our recent study of Wi-Fi roaming usage among UK smartphone users reveals how long they spend on Wi-Fi country by country and highlights the importance of auto-connectivity in improving smarpthone users’ Wi-Fi roaming experience.

For most people, Wi-Fi is a holiday essential. A raft of surveys suggest that holidaymakers, particularly international travelers, rate the availability of good Wi-Fi as more important when choosing a place to stay than many other well-established requirements, including breakfast and a decent view.

In fact, Google — which loves to use its mass of global search data to predict our requirements as we type — is quicker to offer up suggestions for “holiday without wife” than it is for “holiday without wifi”.

But just how much Wi-Fi do people actually use when they travel overseas? In which countries do they use the most Wi-Fi? And how does usage compare to when they are at home? To find answers to these questions, we studied the international Wi-Fi roaming usage of 7,800 UK smartphones during April 2017.

Summary? They used a LOT of Wi-Fi.

Our study smarpthones were Devicescape-enabled, and so automatically connect to our global Curated Virtual Network of shared Wi-Fi. We measured Wi-Fi usage both on our network, and on non-CVN Wi-Fi which required the user to manually connect.

Away from their home networks and naturally cautious about incurring large bills by using mobile data while travelling overseas, dependency on public Wi-Fi increased dramatically.

  • On our network alone, those 7,800 users consumed 1.5TB of data during a combined total of 242,729 hours’ of connectivity; that’s 10,000 days of Wi-Fi.
  • Across all countries included in the survey, travellers spent, on average, between 1.5 and 9 times as many hours connected to our network as they would typically do while in the UK.
  • Travelers to the U.S. consumed almost 12x the volume of data over our network as they would do during the same amount of time in the UK.
  • CVN usage exceeded 100MB / user at 15 long haul destinations, saving customers thousands of Pounds in roaming charges.

Findings In More Detail

Of the top 10 destinations by visitor numbers during April, average time spent on Wi-Fi was highest in the U.S., while Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, and France also had high usage. Although roaming surcharges within the EU have been abolished, UK smartphone users face uncertainty post-Brexit. They are clearly used to Wi-Fi Roaming usage, and it will be interesting to see whether there is any short term impact from the reduction in cellular roaming charges.


UK smartphone users love Wi-Fi when they’re travelling. Many of the destinations with the highest time spent connected to Wi-Fi were long haul, where per MB mobile data roaming charges applied by some UK operators can be as high as £6.00 – £8.00.


Devicescape’s Curated Virtual Network has been built through crowd-sourcing, meaning it grows in precisely the areas that international travelers like to visit. Our connectivity network contains more than 20 million access points in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.



UK smartphone users’ dependency on public Wi-Fi while roaming is well illustrated by the increase in data consumption over our network. Travelers to the U.S. consumed almost 12 times as much data during their visit as they typically would while in the UK.


Auto connecting smartphone users to good quality Wi-Fi is about more than simply finding and establishing the connection; maintaining connectivity is just as important as devices can lose Wi-Fi connectivity if there is a momentary drop in the quality of the connection. Devicescape-enabled smartphones will automatically re-establish connectivity should this happen. And, even in locations where users are more prepared than usual to find and connect manually, the ability to auto-connect to good quality Wi-Fi greatly increases the amount of time users spend connected.


These figures show just how important Wi-Fi has become for UK smartphone users travelling overseas. They also show just how significantly Devicescape-enabled mobile operators can improve their roaming customer experience.

The full report can be downloaded here