With 4G LTE speeds enabling smartphone users to do more on their devices and American wireless carriers capping the use of those devices with tiered and metered data plans, many U.S. smartphone users are concerned about their mobile data usage when connected to a 3G or 4G network. It turns out that for many users, those fears may be unwarranted, but the NPD Connected Intelligence study still does not paint an accurate picture of how user’s data usage would be if there were no caps involved.
Right now, according to NPD, consumers generally use about 870 MB, or just under 1 GB of mobile data per month on average. The small usage of mobile data can be attributed to WiFi use and consumers generally use about 2.5 GB of data monthly when connected to a WiFi hotspot. The NPD research is being reported by Fierce Wireless.
And it’s the WiFi usage that may make the small mobile data use case less meaningful. In the past, with slower 2G and 3G data networks, consumers often connected to WiFi networks when at home, work, or in a public hotspot zone to achieve better network speeds when downloading videos, viewing pictures, or surfing the Internet. Today, with faster 3G and 4G networks, users are still connecting to WiFi, but that may be because users are more concerned of data overages when connecting to mobile networks. As such, WiFi is preferred not for speed or user convenience, but out of fear of rising data costs.
However, given that most carriers argue that users generally consume about 1 GB or under of mobile data a month, NPD’s study may be used by carriers to support that claim, which may not be entirely true. I think that without data caps, more consumers would probably prefer to rely on 4G LTE data speeds as those speeds are faster than most people’s basic DSL speeds at home to begin with.
But given these facts, if you do rely on WiFi for most of your data needs and consumption, you can probably get away with a 1 GB or 2 GB basic mobile broadband plan for your smartphone, which may save you some money. Consumers are advised to check their monthly data usage on their phone bill or through various apps and utilities on their phones, and then make an informed decision on which data plan is best for them. In the U.S., major national carriers Sprint and T-Mobile are the only ones left to still offer unlimited data.