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Survey Claims UK Mobile Users Wasting 14GB of Data a Month

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 (7:50 am) - Score 1,032
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A new survey of 4,000 UK mobile phone users by consumer magazine Which? has claimed that consumers on SIM-Only plans and contracts are “wasting” an average of 14GB (GigaBytes) of mobile broadband data each month. In short, some people could save money by switching to a plan with a smaller allowance.

The survey, which was conducted during February 2021, noted that 44% of respondents on pay monthly contracts have a data allowance of 10GB or more (including unlimited), but 47% use less than 3GB a month and 72% use 5GB or less.

The COVID-19 crisis has also caused people to spend more time connected to WiFi via their fixed line home broadband ISP, which means that the amount of mobile data going unused each month has increased – by 4GB per month on average.

However, we shouldn’t forget that some people pick a mobile plan for other reasons, such as specific features, perks or unlimited calling/text allowances. Consumers often like to have some security in the plans we choose and thus many may have a sensible tendency to buy a more than we expect to use. Some plans also give you the ability to roll-over unused data allowances to the following month or beyond.

Suffice to say, if you’re out of contract then there’s often some merit in saving money by switching to a plan that’s more closely aligned to your usage, but at the same time the plans we choose aren’t always selected based on the linear gauge of how much money we could save. Indeed, other factors including service / support quality, mobile broadband speed and network coverage may also play into the decision.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that the data people do or don’t use often forms part of an operator’s overall economic model. Put another way, if we all used 100% of our data then prices may well rise because a lot of operators base their costings around the fact that many users won’t gobble everything (balance of shared capacity).

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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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14 Responses
  1. Spurple says:

    If the difference between a 10GB plan and a 5GB plan is £2 a month, then it’s no surprise that people waste data.

    They do it because the cost of exceeding your cap in a single month will probably exceed any savings you could make by taking the cheaper plan.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    One persons “waste” is another persons “gold”. WTF gives them the right to decide who does what with their data allowance?

  3. adslmax says:

    I got plusnet sim only with 30 days rolling with smart cap £0 and got unlimited texts unlimited calls and 22GB data for £10 a month. Happy with this plan. I use this data for outdoor and in my car sat nav.

  4. NE555 says:

    How are they accounting for people on unlimited plans?

    Should the headline be: “Mobile Users Wasting An Infinite Amount of Data a Month”?

  5. Duncan says:

    It doesn’t help that mobile providers entice you into unlimited or high data plans as well. I know so many people that pay £30 or more a month and use wi-fi wherever they go!

  6. JP says:

    Next they’ll be saying people need to start buying speed restricted plans because potential bandwidth is wasted, then smaller phones because people don’t use certain part of the screen much….

    Do a survey that’s worth doing ffs, I think they do this to get the masses all worked up and calling their networks to generate custom through switching customers.

    All the stuff that’s been going on the past year and they want to talk about people not using the last 4GB on a 10GB plan, probably at a time when most have been sat on their Wifi for the year.

  7. Endicote says:

    How can you waste something you don’t generate/consume? Just because I have an allowance of 30gig and I use 10gig doesn’t mean I wasted 20. I might have overpaid but this survey doesn’t prove that or anything useful for that matter, since I might be doing it in order not to incur bigger charges in case I exceed 10gig (if I was on 10 gig plan).

    Modern “journalism” or indeed level of “logic” is shocking.

  8. Moss says:

    I use my unlimited data on mobile plan heavily (it usually ranges from 50GB-100GB) Per month on a smartphone, I’m sure there are people who are similar to me on how they use their data plan (heavily use it) for those who have an unlimited plan but do not actively use it that much shouldn’t be on that plan, they should be on a smaller plan that is slightly cheaper.

    1. JP says:

      So your overpaying by the WHICH logic then as you don’t use your data constantly, WHICH probably recommends you switch to a plan that is the same price but with a 120GB limit.

  9. Qwerty says:

    A shock survey has concluded mobile phone users aren’t using as much data during a national lockdown!

    Really? Is that the best they could do? That must have been one fun 10 second zoom call thinking that idea up.. what an utterly useless pointless waste of everyone’s time survey, And no one is ‘wasting’ data, you don’t physically own data allowance, you just use it or not.

  10. Tyeth Gundry says:

    Got an unlimited plan for the couple of months in two years when I need to hotspot (~500gb/month) as the limits and overage costs are crazy compared to the monthly price difference. I usually use 3-5gb on a quiet month and 70odd on a busy one as WiFi provides the rest of it.
    Full speed 5g sim only 23/month plus cashback making 13odd on vodafone

  11. Packet Switched says:

    Surely this is where you need a dual sim phone.

    Have a data only sim with say 20 gb on it valid to use any time within the next year or more and when it runs out get another.
    Have the other sim as your monthly subscription for voice, messages and being contacting with whatever the minimum
    data allowance is with it.

    This will in fact work practically very well. If you need data and the network the data sim is on has no signal you may be able
    to get a signal if the other sim is on another network. So useful redundancy, very straight forward shopping around for good value, and little of the data brought necessarily wasted..

  12. 5G_Infinity says:

    Not much use as a survey, as most people will be on 12, 18 or 24th month contracts with penalties for early termination AND most tariffs such as 32GB and 50GB mean the handset is notionally free (ie no up front payment) then we are all stuck with no means of changing until the regulator changes the rules

  13. Bubbles says:

    My 30GB plan on Three is £7.50 factoring in cashback. I would rather pay more and have some left over than be paying 10p per extra MB for data. My average data usage in a month on my phone is 28GB do I’m only ‘wasting’ 2GB.

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