Consumers hugely overestimating mobile data needs

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Consumers wasting hundreds of megabytes monthly. Half (49%) of all smartphone users are using just 100MB per month or less, and yet 88% paying for 500MB.

A new report published today by billmonitor.com, the Ofcom-accredited mobile price comparison site, has found that most smartphone users are on a data tariff far too large for their needs. The report found that consumers’ fear of ‘bill shock’ – the excessive charges incurred when people go over their data limits – is leading them to waste hundreds of megabytes each month with excessive allowances. The findings are based on an anonymised analysis of 215,507 mobile phone bills from UK customers who used the free bill analysis service at billmonitor.com.

According to the report, while half (49%) of all smartphone owners are using less than 100MB per month, 88% of smartphone users opt for a much larger monthly data allowance of at least 500MB. The notion of bill shock has led to a fear of data charges, as consumers opt for greater allowances than they need, rather than face unexpectedly high bills. However, with just 8% of smartphone users recently experiencing data charges, this fear is usually unfounded.

While smartphone data usage is undoubtedly on the rise as the report shows, doubling in the past 18 months from 71MB to an average of 154MB per month, this is still a much lower volume than the vast majority of consumers perceive they need. In the wake of a data ‘capacity crunch,’ this report identifies that most consumer data allowances are actually going to waste.

The report identified three categories of data user:

49% of smartphone users are dipping their toes in the waters of mobile data with monthly usage of less than 100MB.

24% of users may have had a smartphone for a while but usage levels of 100-250MB per month remain moderate.

27% of users are ‘power users’ who wouldn’t want to be without their smartphone, consuming more than 250MB per month.

Dr Stelios Koundouros, founder of billmonitor.com states: “Virtually all smartphone users have one thing in common: they’re all paying more for mobile data than they should. It is notoriously difficult for people to estimate their real data usage, and smartphone users who don’t know how much data they are using cannot make an informed decision on which tariff is right for them. We urge people to take a good look at their consumption and make sure that they are not paying over the odds for their data.”