Record number of consumers used public WiFi at Christmas, provider reports


iphoneMore UK consumers logged on to public WiFi hotspots this Christmas as they used their smart phones and tablets to update their social media accounts and seek out bargains in the sales, according to figures from the UK’s biggest high street WiFi provider, The Cloud.

The Cloud said its network of hotspots in pubs, shops, cafes, restaurants and other public places around the UK saw WiFi usage over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day three times higher than Christmas last year. In total consumers spent more than 60m minutes connected to WiFi this Christmas. The increasing trend is consistent over the past few years, with the amount of information downloaded across the three days up by a factor of 10 since 2009.

This year Christmas Eve was the busiest day over the Christmas period for WiFi traffic as millions of last-minute shoppers hit high streets and shopping centres – and, later on, pubs – with their connected devices in hand, The Cloud found. Peak WiFi traffic (the number of people accessing the internet via WiFi hotspots in public places) on Christmas Eve was around a fifth higher than an average week day and four times higher than the same day last year, and reached its peak in pubs at midnight, when people updated their social media accounts as Christmas Day arrived.

And on Boxing Day pubs up and down the country experienced another big spike in WiFi hotspot use compared to last year, twice as high as last year, as people continued their seasonal celebrations while watching some of the big Boxing Day football matches, said researchers.

On Christmas Day, as the majority of the British public stayed home with turkey and presents, WiFi traffic was, unsurprisingly, much lower than an average week day. But there were still plenty of people logging on and pubs were the busiest venues on The Cloud’s network on Christmas Day despite only being open for a few hours, seeing usage almost double over 2011, with restaurants the next busiest, said The Cloud.

An estimated 5m people every day pass through The Cloud network by visiting one of its partners, including major outlets like JD Wetherspoon, PizzaExpress, WH Smith, Westfield shopping centres, Caffè Nero, Eat, Maplin, Greggs, Phones 4u, Pret and Wagamama. The Cloud’s users connect to its hotspots for over 100m minutes each week, the company reports.

Vince Russell, managing director at The Cloud, said: “We used to think Christmas would be a relatively quiet time on our network, but that isn’t the case any more. Even on Christmas Day, our pub hotspots are heavily used. And when the high streets are busy – as they are for last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve and bargain-hunters on Boxing Day – the increase in traffic is considerable.

“The reality is that WiFi has become a vital part of the shopping experience now – allowing people to browse the wider internet while in-store to view the shop’s full range and product availability, search for reviews and update their social media pages with details on what they’ve bought.”