Talking point: have you given up on airport WiFi?

Talking point: have you given up on airport WiFi?

Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.

TALKING POINT | With many airport WiFi hotspots delivering snail-like speeds, requiring passwords or personal information to get online or even booting you off after just a moment of inactivity, have you given up on free WiFi at the airport, or do you still connect and try to squeeze some bandwidth?

That’s the question we’re putting to readers this week, because many business travellers seem to prefer using their own portable hotspot to get online, or in the alternative, transforming their smartphone into a high-speed 4G WiFi network to achieve the same.

In many cases, the latter provides the best browsing experience, particularly when results published this month by Ookla – the company behind Speedtest – show that average mobile data speeds at Sydney Airport are almost 15 times as fast as the airport’s own WiFi connection.

In Adelaide, mobile data proves to be around 10 times faster than airport WiFi, while in Melbourne and Brisbane, cellular data is about twice the speed of airport wireless.

Only in Perth and the Gold Coast were the airport-provided WiFi hotspots faster than mobile BYO data: but even then, typical 4G download speeds were still around the 40Mbps mark.

Of course, Ookla’s results only measure the complimentary, terminal-wide WiFi service at each airport: access speeds on private airport lounge networks weren’t measured, but as frequent travellers can attest, vary wildly in any case.

Sometimes, speeds within the lounges can be incredibly solid – for instance, we clocked downloads at 113.1Mbps in Sydney’s domestic Qantas lounges this month – or can be far worse, such as the 1.6Mbps measured in the airline’s Brisbane lounges in the same week.

So, what’s your airport WiFi strategy? Do you give WiFi a chance before whipping out your own mobile phone or hotspot, or do you jump straight onto your own mobile data service: ignoring any free WiFi entirely?

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • Medon Loupis


    10 Aug, 2017 08:22 am

    I have a 15GB/month plan on my iPhone, so I never have to worry about using too much data. In general, I'll give the airport and/or lounge WiFi a chance and then if it gets too frustrating I'll use my phone's data instead. My biggest hate is having to log in each and every time I wake my phone up from sleep.
    I'm not sure why, but I find the airport/lounge WiFi to be a little more solid and reliable when I'm using it on my laptop, rather than my phone or iPad. 
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  • David Flynn


    10 Aug, 2017 08:33 am

    I'm definitely over slow and often bothersome airport and lounge WiFi networks. These days my habit is to fire up the iPhone and use it as a personal 4G hotspot. I have slightly larger monthly data allowance for exactly this purpose. That said, reports of lightning-fast upgraded WiFi at some Qantas lounges (I think Sydney is one?) makes me keen to try that out before my next flight...
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  • mjduckby89


    10 Aug, 2017 04:21 pm

    Luckily testing out the new WiFi should be a relatively straightforward matter for you.
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  • gardermoen


    10 Aug, 2017 09:01 am

    Never had an issue with lounge wifi, and I use it whenever I can. Airport free wifi generally speaking is useless. Trying sending a picture via whatsapp and it will just get stuck forever.
    What annoys me about airport free wifi is that generally they require you to sign up for their marketing nonsense. Dont they realise people just give bogus names/email addresses ??
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  • Susan White

    Susan White

    10 Aug, 2017 01:48 pm

    The new Qantas lounge wifi is incredibly fast, last week it was over 50Mb/s to my laptop and that was during a busy weekday morning. But yes unless airport wifi is very fast I link to my phone, it also means there are not blocks to some websites I use which the airport wifi system blocks for various reasons.
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  • moecat


    11 Aug, 2017 12:30 am

    Free WIFI is great for international travelers, i think for locals its a bit of a waste, i cant be bothered connecting my devices, no point for less quality.
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  • Steve987


    11 Aug, 2017 08:44 am

    Use it for devices not naturally connected (laptop, wifi only iPad), don't bother to connect phone
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  • Richard Robertson


    11 Aug, 2017 03:17 pm

    I now just usually hotspot my phone. Qantas lounge speeds can be okay, but otherwise airport wifi is largely a joke. 
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  • Donald Noble


    11 Aug, 2017 03:54 pm

    I prefer using my own device/phone for not only better speeds, but security. I just don't trust open wifi at the best of times, but especially so at airports. And it's just too much of a hassle trying to connect/use the airport free wifi - sends me insane if I can't get decent speeds. Even in airline lounges, I still prefer to use my own device
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  • Andrew Lowe


    11 Aug, 2017 04:04 pm

    Dont bother with airport wifi any more for this very reason. I find it less frustrating to use my mobile data allowance when in Aus, or pay Telstra's $10 a day roaming free while travelling.
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  • johnaboxall


    31 Dec, 2017 09:57 am

    We now have 60G a month domestic and 2GB roaming per month on each of our phones (Telstra XXL), no need for WiFi at all. If you haven't done so in the last six months, shop around folks - mobile data is getting much cheaper.
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  • markpk


    31 Dec, 2017 04:30 pm

    I gave up a while ago. I've got a Vodafone hotspot that gives me more than enough data and excellent speeds pretty much everywhere I need to travel for work in AU.
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  • Russjking


    2 Jan, 2018 06:29 am

    Virgin Cairns has to be the slowest lounge speed: 0.5-1.2 is typical
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  • Jason Hamilton


    2 Jan, 2018 12:43 pm

    Always use my own. Can’t even be bothered logging in to airport wi-fi. I especially hate the fact that I am divulging personal information or getting junk emails thereafter.
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21 Jul, 2019 04:52 am


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