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UK mobile users wasting 143 GB of data every month, uSwitch study finds

David Murphy

Mobile customers in the UK are collectively paying for 143m gigabytes (GB) worth of data every month that they don’t use according to research by uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

The company conducted 5,603 online interviews with UK adults who have either home broadband or a mobile phone between 18 December and 2 January. 5,084 of the respondents were mobile users.

The 143m GB per month wasted data figure comes from a question respondents were asked about how much data is included in their package?’ The mean response was 5.9 GB. Respondents who had data in their package were also asked how much data they typically use per months and here mean response was 2.5 GB. That’s 3.4 GB wasted per person, which when multiplied by the 51.8m adults in the UK, 94 per cent of whom have a mobile (and 87 per cent of these have data as part of their package_, ives a total of 143.9 GB of wasted data a month. The issue is worse among the younger, age group where the average 18-34 year old is paying for 7.5 GB of data but typically only uses 3.6 GB a month.

Confusion is adding to the issue - 21 per cent of mobile customers are unaware of how much allowance is included in their package, rising to 26 per cent of over 55s. Older mobile users who pay for a tariff that includes data are also far more likely (32 per cent) than the average customer (26 per cent) to be in the dark about how much data they are using.

In addition, 36 per cent of mobile customers who have data built into their contracts don’t keep track of their mobile internet usage. 5 per cent of those either didn’t know they could do this at all or don’t know how to. Conversely, 15 per cent of those with a data package keep track of their data by looking on provider apps, 13 per cent check their phone settings, 9 per cent look online at the account website, and 8 per cent check their bill when it comes through at the end of the month.

“No one wants to go over their data allowance,” said uSwitch.com’s Ernest Doku. “However, in a bid to prevent over-spending and with so many contracts on the market now offering sizeable data bundles, customers can easily fall into the trap of thinking they need more than they’re actually going to use. 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.

Doku advises consumers to take an average of their usage over a few months so they can see what type of package best aligns with what they need. Customers whose usage varies significantly each month, should look at packages that allow them to adjust how much data they are using on a month-by-month basis, or carry a proportion over into subsequent months, he says.