Airport Wi-Fi is an essential tool to help pass the time before a flight or finish that last work email, but connection speeds vary wildly at different airports.
a new study(Opens in a new window) from Ookla compared connection speeds at some of the world’s busiest airports in the first quarter, testing two specific aspects: free airport-provided Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity. This is where you will get the most bang for your buck on your next trip.
US airports have the fastest free Wi-Fi
US airports offer the fastest free Wi-Fi, find Ookla. The top five in terms of download speeds are Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport Terminal 3 (157.6 Mbps), San Francisco International Airport (156.66 Mbps), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ( 143.42), John F. Kennedy International Airport (136.06), and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (136.02).
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and SeaTac have the lowest median latency of any number of servers, at 6 milliseconds each. “This means that your device should experience very little lag when transmitting information over the web,” says Ookla.
The worst latency can be found at the Cancun International Airport, at 60ms. Cancun also has the slowest download and upload speeds, cementing its place at the bottom of the list.
Mobile Wi-Fi speeds at airports around the world (Credit: Ookla)
Outside the US, Shanghai Pudong International Airport tops the list with an average download speed of 118.67 Mbps. The next fastest is Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (98.82 Mbps), followed by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (82.83), Dubai International Airport (67.21) and Frankfurt Airport (59.10 Mbps).
Chinese airports offer excellent mobile speeds
When it comes to mobile operator speeds, eight of the top 10 airports are in China. “Be prepared to connect to local mobile service or connect your phone to your laptop if you’re traveling through the airports in Shanghai and Beijing,” says Ookla. “Mobile speeds at these airports were dramatically faster than airport Wi-Fi.”
The first is Shanghai Pudong International Airport (average download speed 308.5 Mbps), followed by Beijing Capital International Airport (304.87) and Beijing Daxing International Airport (300.70). The two non-Chinese airports in the top 10 are in the US: Salt Lake City International Airport (282.21 Mbps) and Logan International Airport (155.29).
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“While latency on mobile was generally higher than on Wi-Fi, these same three Chinese airports also showed the lowest median latency of various servers on mobile during Q1 2023, indicating that their experience of Internet at these airports will have the least delay.” Ookla says.
Moving speeds at airports around the world (Credit: Ookla)
Wi-Fi or mobile at the airport: which one to use?
This decision may be down to cost, as using mobile data, especially abroad, will cost you a few bucks. But sometimes it’s not worth connecting to free Wi-Fi, for speed (or security) reasons. The chart below recommends the fastest option for each airport surveyed.
Disclosure: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of PCMag.
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