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Study Claims UK Mobile Users Wasting 3.4GB of Data Every Month

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 1,521
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A new online survey of 5,603 UK adults has found that the average (mean) amount of Mobile Broadband data included with a Mobile plan is 5.9GB (GigaBytes) and yet subscribers only consume an average of 2.5GB, which suggests that some could save money by choosing a cheaper tariff.

The uSwitch.com commissioned study also noted that the issue is more noticeable among the younger generation, where the average 18-34 year old was found to be paying for 7.5GB of data but typically only using 3.6GB a month. Meanwhile 21% of mobile customers are unaware of how much allowance is included in their package and 26% of those with a data package don’t know what they use.

On top of that 36% of mobile customers who have a 3G or 4G data allowance built into their contracts don’t keep track of their mobile internet usage, although happily only 5% didn’t know they could do this at all or don’t know how to. Conversely, some 15% of those with a data package keep track of their data by either looking on provider apps, checking their phone settings (13%), viewing the online account page (9%) or checking their bill (8%).

The survey suggests that by “overpaying for data you don’t use or need, you’re not only wasting money, but you could unintentionally be cancelling out the value of any perks or freebies bundled into the tariff as an ‘extra’,” although it’s worth remembering that average usage may vary from month to month; consumers might buy more than they need for the sake of security.

However the results seem to overlook the complication of “all-you-can-eat” style tariffs offered by operators like Three UK, not to mention add-ons such as zero rated video streaming (e.g. “Go Binge“), which can enable people to use significantly more data than the plan may actually offer and often “at no extra cost“. This is before we touch on other plan styles, such as those with the ability to roll-over your data allowance to next month etc.

Lest we forget that a lot of mobile plans don’t offer data bundles in smaller increments, which can leave a big gap between the available tariffs (e.g. a SIM Only plan on EE can go from £14 per month for 1GB to £17 for 4GB and then £20 for 10GB etc.). Crucially gaps this big mean that many people may unavoidably end-up picking a plan that leaves them with a fair bit of data left over at the end of the month.

Suffice to say that the picture is far from simple. Finally, we should point out that Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2017 report (here) recently revealed that the average volume of data consumed per mobile subscriber is now 1.9GB per month, which is up from 1.3GB in 2016 and 0.9GB in 2015. Somewhat lower than uSwitch’s figure but not a million miles off.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Asrab

    When wasted mobile data is mentioned – a thought should be first be given about the rouge apps that download data with in their default settings,

    Just recently i had an OS update 700 mb, Google play services 500 mb among various other app that came pre installed with phone all quietly downloading the data in the background, only to notify when the installation is ready to be preformed,

    I am glad i am on threes unlimited data

    • occasionally factual

      Any app can be restricted to use only WIFi in your mobile data settings. And some apps have restrictions in their own settings too.

    • spurple

      Wrong. Google play store by default will never download updates over mobile data. If it prompts you to install, it means it managed to pull the data over wifi or it hasn’t actually downloaded anything.

    • asrab uddin

      Not sure how it could have downloaded over wifi – when its not even connected, i have mobile data turned on all the time, it definitely has downloaded this over the mobile network when i check my data usage,

      My point is all apps by default should not use mobile data unless specifically given permission, the other issue is once an app is is installed by default it wants to update all the time,

    • spurple

      There’s an app called Datally made by Google, which gives you the ability to disable data for all but whitelisted apps.

  2. TheFacts

    Another iffy uSwitch survey.

  3. Stephen Devine

    Some of us have the opposite problem with the need to only download over mobile data and face having to go through ‘safety nets’ to stop apps ‘defaulting’ to wifi only – living in a rural area, with non-existent normal broadband, online life would be impossible without large data allowances on phones and sizeable, but capped, mobile broadband – defaulting to wifi uses up the capped allowances, while using data on the phone (on Three) is less risky.

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