Connectivity plays an important part of many traveller’s journey through airports. The current expectation is for most modern airports to offer some form of free Wi-Fi connection and perhaps a paid premium option. Though many of us understand there is a bandwidth difference between wi-fi vs wired but unfortunately that option isn’t currently offered in major airports. However, what would be the use of free Wi-Fi if it is unuseable due to low upload and download speeds. Popular network testing software Speedtest compiled data points between March to May 2017 at 30 North American airports to find out how their free Wi-Fi speeds compared to those from cellular service.
Uncover Free Wi-Fi and Cellular Speeds
Speedtest compiled the results based on travellers using the Android and iOS application to test speeds on free Wi-Fi connections. Some airports like San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL), Cancún, Mexico (CUN), Panamá City, Panama (PTY) and San José, Puerto Rico (SJU) did not have register any tests in the Wi-Fi connection and were included as Nil. Guadalajara, Mexico (GDL) does not have any free Wi-Fi available.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is a clear winner with an average 78.22 Mbps download and 78.29 Mbps upload speeds. That is a 26.69% improvement over the last set of results published back in January 2017. Since its 2015-16’s US$2.5 million upgrade, the airport has enjoyed high speeds that have reached up to a 100Mbps sustained download speed.
The top 3 most improved airports went to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) with a big 717.87% increase in average speed changes, followed by New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) at 144.95% and Orlando International Airport (MCO) at 123.60%.
The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Related News – Insider Look At World’s Busiest Airports Over The Past Five Years) surprisingly ranked 2nd last out of all airports with returned results with speeds that are between 35-70% slower than Denver’s scores. Miami International Airport (MIA)’s speeds deteriorated the most with a -23.85% change.
The story is very different when it comes to cellular service speeds collected by users over different networks.
Four out of the top five airports are from Canada with Vancouver International Airport (YVR) faring the best with an average 59.84 Mbps download and 24.60 Mbps upload speeds. Denver which ranked first in the Wi-Fi tests earned a tenth place here but wins the most improved award with a 59.15% speed increase. While Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) performed the worst for all U.S. airports surveyed, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), Costa Rica have the lowest speeds recorded in this group.
Why Do Speeds Matter?
Many airports surveyed by Speedtest are hubs for major international airlines with many connections daily:
|Airport||Hub / Focus City Airlines||Airport||Hub / Focus City Airlines|
|DEN||United Airlines / Frontier||ORD||United Airlines / American Airlines|
|YVR||Air Canada / WestJet||EWR||United Airlines|
|PHL||American Airlines||IAH||United Airlines|
|SFO||United Airlines / Virgin America||LGA||Delta Air Lines / American Airlines|
|SEA||Alaska Airlines / Delta Air Lines||CLT||American Airlines|
|YYC||Air Canada / WestJet||LAS||Southwest Airlines|
|BOS||Delta Air Lines / jetBlue Airways||PHX||American Airlines|
|DFW||American Airlines||MCO||Southwest Airlines|
|MEX||Aeromexico||MSP||Delta Air Lines|
|DTW||Delta Air Lines||YYZ||Air Canada / WestJet|
|LAX||United Airlines / Delta Air Lines / American Airlines||ATL||Delta Air Lines|
|MIA||American Airlines||YUL||Air Canada / Air Transat|
|JFK||American Airlines / Delta Air Lines / jetBlue Airways|
Travellers who are waiting for flights at this airports are likely to be using connectivity to pass the time or work. Lower speeds may degrade their overall satisfaction with the airport which may affect the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) scores. It would also have an indirect effect on their perception of the airline operating in that airport. This is especially the case if an airline or airport attaches the word “premium” or “luxury” in its messaging to travellers. Companies sponsoring the free airport Wi-Fi should also be concerned if the speeds are on the low side.
Airports continue to find ways to deliver a higher quality experience and improve non-aeronautical revenue. High speed internet connection through Wi-Fi or cellular networks is what travellers expect as airports market themselves as an extension to their living room. Deployment of current and future technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, beacon and robots will require data bandwidth to a quality execution. To be successful, airports will need to work with vendors (for Wi-Fi) and cellular companies to build a value preposition that balances speed and costs.