Whether it’s your home broadband or a public network, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to join the WiFi right away.
It’s a universal problem that affects us all, which is why researchers in China are trying to get to the bottom of what causes Wifi issues by analysing 400 million different connections.
Working with Tencent, the developers of instant messaging app WeChat, academics at Tsinghua University found that it took 15% of Internet users more than five seconds to join a Wifi network. For an unlucky 5%, this took longer than 10 seconds. The study’s most surprising finding was that the average device had some kind of connectivity issue 45% of the time.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this isn’t always the fault of your ISP. Incorrect passwords caused 8% of broken WiFi and a further 8% could be blamed on users deliberately switching to a different connection.
But it’s fair to say the bulk of issues were the fault of the network. DHCP failure caused 9% of the problems, while 15% of connections timed out.
Of course this depends what network you’re on. We broke down the numbers and found the fastest connections speeds in London, with Sky just beating Virgin to first place.
For their study, the researchers in China collected data using a WiFi managing app, tracking the connections of 5 million users across four cities. This resulted in an impressive 400 million sessions from 7 million mobile access points.
Lead researcher Changhua Pei said: “The performance and quality of WiFi networks are still far from satisfactory.”
According to the team behind the findings, the best solution would be using artificial intelligence to handle Internet connections, as it would remove human error from the process.
On their paper, the team wrote: “Based on the measurement analysis, we could develop a machine learning based AP [access point] selection strategy that can significantly improve WiFi connection set-up performance, against the conventional strategy purely based on signal strength.”
They added: “This could reduce the connection set-up failures from 33% to 3.6% and reducing 80% time costs of the connection set-up processes by more than 10 times.”
In the meantime, it might just be better to move closer to the router or upgrade your WiFi.