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Giffgaff Predict UK 5G Mobile Data Use Per User of 100GB by 2025

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018 (10:14 am) - Score 2,321

Mobile operator giffgaff, which harnesses O2’s Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) platform, has predicted that the future rollout of 5G services within the UK could push their average monthly data usage per user (SIM) from 3.95GB (GigaByes) in 2017 to 98.34GB by 2025.

We should point out that Ofcom’s figure for average data use per 4G (Mobile Broadband) user in the United Kingdom during 2017 was only 1.9GB (here), although that is across all primary Mobile Network Operators (MNO); customers of giffgaff tend to sit at the more data hungry end (Three UK are in a similar boat).

The Operator’s Prediction

Based on the rate of current data usage, we have found that theoretical speed increases will give us a projection of a staggering average monthly data usage of 98.34 GB by 2025, per SIM. The average monthly data usage in 2016 was a mere 1.26 GB, which gives you a real impression of just how much of an impact 5G is going to have.

Our research revealed that the biggest increase in data usage would be the number of people who stream videos on their phones. In 2017, users consumed 0.83 GB’s worth of their data on video streaming; this is expected to rise to 24.76 GB by 2021.

Based on current usage rates, we predict that by 2025, when streaming in 4k will be readily available for mobile users, an amazing 73.87 GB of mobile data per month will be used for video streaming.

We also discovered a trend that firmly suggests the younger you are, the more likely you are to exceed your monthly data allowance. Of all the 18-24 year-olds we surveyed across the UK, 14% said they exceed their mobile data allowance every month.

However we do have the odd issue with giffgaff’s chart. Firstly, it seems to suggest that mobile operators will initially launch 5G services alongside significantly larger data allowances (very probable but not yet confirmed) and that uptake, as well as coverage, will have already achieved significant scale by the end of 2021. Certainly many of the core urban areas may be reasonably well covered by the end of 2021 but uptake tends to be a gradual change.

On top of that the early deployments of any new technology are always less mature and more expensive. In the case of initial 4G rollouts, this meant that consumers didn’t see dramatically faster speeds or usage allowances vs the best 3G services until a little later. A lot of consumers also delayed upgrading until either the prices came down, they changed handset or 4G was adopted as the default vs 3G.

Likewise it has taken years for 4G to reach its initially designed speed aspirations and no doubt 5G will similarly take time to mature, although giffgaff seem to be assuming that 5G “would enable anyone with a compatible device to download at a rate of 10 GB per second” (note to giffgaff: the speeds are measured in Gigabits [Gb] not GigaBytes [GB]).

In reality it will probably be a fair few years before 10Gbps is actually achievable by end-users on a Smartphone under normal conditions. Capacity tends to be shared between many users and, even once matured, you’d struggle to get 10Gbps outside of urban areas. 5G needs a dense network and bands like 23GHz in order to deliver the best speeds, albeit over a short range, which is more intended for fixed wireless links than high mobility or rural environments.

The operator may also be ignoring the potentially huge impact of third-party technology changes, such as the introduction of ever more efficient video streaming and compression (i.e. less speed is needed to deliver the same quality). Having said all that we do expect 5G to deliver a noticeable increase, although it may not be quite as initially dramatic as giffgaff suggest.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. wirelesspacman says:

    I appreciate that this “only” reflects a cumulative 50% per annum increase, but I do find it hard to see what we will all be doing with our mobile devices that would soak up 100 GB of data each month. Based on 2 Mbps streaming, that would equate to around 100 hours a month, or over 3 hours a day, day, and over a 5G network (ie excluding times when the device can/does connect via wifi). That just seems like an awful lot to me. No doubt tomorrow’s teenagers will prove me wrong! 🙂

    1. apolloa says:

      Most of us just like we do now with 4G will be searching for a 5G signal to use…
      Would be nice if they could actually bother to boost their signals first of what we already have, before making it all pointlessly faster. We will still have and use telephone lines for broadband.

    2. 2MBps is old school. Think 5-8Mbps x265 for 4K UHD tablets. Obviously it would be a better idea to do that over Wi-Fi, but for some that may not be realistic.

  2. 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G) says:

    A recent study across EU showed that average monthly data (end 2016) was below 2GB, with peaks of 5GB. There are individuals who I know can and have consumed more than 265GB per month watching video and who do not have/use a fixed network connection.

    I concur it will be 2020+ before the average monthly exceeds 5GB, all within 4G LTE Advanced capability and with the current spectrum allocations.

  3. Simon says:

    you will stil only get 1mbps peak time on GG they are rubbish

    1. Tim says:

      They are rubbish because O2 have the smallest amount of frequency allocation compared to number of users. I think O2 are still only using 10Mhz bandwidth and no carrier aggregation so they have a max per cell capacity of 60~70Mbps. Whereas EE with 20+20Mhz carrier aggregation have a max per cell capacity of ~300Mbps.

  4. Tim says:

    Coverage for 4G still sucks.

    Can’t they just work on rolling out triple carrier Gbit LTE.

    If 5G will be on 23Ghz it’ll need LoS (or very short range) so this is more like a Wi-Fi hotspot replacement than a Mobile Cell covering 10Km. So 5G will never reach rural areas anyway.

  5. AndyC says:

    Wonder how much they will charge for that amount of data?

  6. William perrin says:

    Agree this is a lot of nonsensical extrapolation for a headline. However i have used 4G as the primary connection for my house for a while. Including daily video streaming (at a princely 40Mb/s) for two adults and two small children, some light business use and drop box and iPhotos being up and downloaded it is very hard to stay within 100Gb/month.

  7. Jake says:

    Giff Gaff still think their 500Mb monthly ‘Gigabag’ is a really generous allowance in 2018 for cellular enabled tablets etc

    We really need a system were we have a fixed monthly allowance BUT, users also get unmetered ‘off peak’ bandwidth for video binges etc.

    Otherwise what’s the point in having one of these devices at all?

    1. The trouble is that the time people want to binge is almost always peak, i.e. evening when they are not at work or school. If you can get people to watch stuff at 5AM then sure, but it’s unlikely to catch on.

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