5G users are on average consuming up to 2.7x more mobile data than 4G users 5g data
The three markets with the greatest 5G data consumption are Taiwan (47.3 GB/month), Saudi Arabia (42.0 GB/month) and South Korea (37.9 GB/month).
Despite lockdowns, mobile data usage is still rising 5g data
Between the first quarter of 2020 and the same quarter in 2021 there was an average increase in monthly mobile data usage of 1.3 GB per smartphone user (17.2%) across the 65 markets Opensignal analyzed, although it’s slightly lower than the 2.1 GB increase in the previous year.
The proportion of both heavy and light smartphone users is increasing
Average mobile data consumption figures hide key trends. In 89% of the markets, we saw an increase in the proportion of heavy smartphone users that used over 1 GB in a day between the first quarters of 2021 and 2020. But 54% of markets also saw an increase in the proportion of smartphone users consuming under 50 MB a day. Operators need to understand how their competitors’ usage patterns are changing in order to adjust their strategy.
There’s no sign of 5G mobile congestionnationally, even in high usage 5G markets
To date, 5G is severing the link between high mobile data traffic and network congestion. The markets for 5G data consumption also top Opensignal’s 5G global experience benchmarks.
In effect, 5G users are able to enjoy both much faster download speeds and consume much more data. Historically, where mobile users consumed large amounts of data it causes network congestion which depresses speeds, but for 5G users we see no indication of slowdowns in markets with high 5G data consumption.
Mobile data is the oxygen of the mobile experience
Mobile data is critical to mobile users because the more capacity available, the more users are able to watch video for long periods and in higher quality, listen to streaming music for longer, play more multiplayer games, share larger media files to social networks and download more apps. Every single cellular network activity consumes mobile data — it is the oxygen powering the mobile experience. As a result, many users choose their tariff plan based on the amount of data offered and operator marketing teams agonize over how much data to offer for what price.
However, data traffic is an extremely significant cost for mobile network operators because as mobile usage increases, speeds and mobile experience can deteriorate as networks become more congested. Rising mobile data traffic increases the need for mobile operators to raise spending to add new cell sites and upgrade mobile antennas or site backhaul links, and it helps to explain the
large sums operators spend in auctions for new wireless spectrum.
With the COVID-19 crisis, the trend in mobile data consumption is no longer clear. During the last year we have seen many users rely on their smartphones more heavily, and often operators have offered extra free mobile data to their users to help. For other users, mostly based at home, they have relied on their home broadband more heavily and perhaps used less mobile data than usual.
Understanding the real underlying trends is essential so the mobile industry can build the capacity to support mobile users’ needs in the future and avoid mobile congestion.
The high quality 5G experience drives much greater mobile data usage 5g data
Across all 20 leading 5G markets, we see much greater mobile data usage among 5G users than by 4G users. The greatest increases are in Japan (2.7x), Canada (2.2x), Germany (2.1x) and South Korea (2.1x). In all but two markets, 5G users consume more than 10 GB a month.
However, the most striking trend is in the three markets with the greatest monthly 5G mobile data consumption — Taiwan (47.3 GB), Saudi Arabia (42.0 GB) and South Korea (37.9 GB) — because all three regularly top Opensignal’s global comparisons of 5G experience. These three markets have used 5G to sever the previous link between high mobile data consumption and low speeds usually caused by mobile network congestion.
5G users consume more mobile data than do 4G users because of four main reasons:
• Video streams use more data, even for the same viewing time. Even if 5G users watch exactly the same number of minutes of mobile video as 4G users, video apps will typically automatically switch to higher quality levels because of the greater quality of the mobile connection. As a
result, 5G users will spend more time watching HD mobile video streams which require more data per minute. Plus, as the mobile video will work with fewer interruptions, if any, 5G users will be more likely to watch more and longer video streams over mobile connections.
• Music will stream in higher quality. There is a new music format war starting in 2021 as more mobile music providers offer lossless audio, including Spotify and Apple, alongside long-standing lossless proponent Tidal, and also new surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos,
which Apple calls “spatial audio”. These formats require much more data throughput for the same song length. On a high quality connection, more users will switch to higher quality music, whether they stream or download the music for offline use on their smartphone.
• 5G users are early adopters. In some markets it’s indisputable that 5G is still niche. But with every 2021 flagship smartphone arriving with 5G as standard, and most 2021 mid-range and 2020 flagship models also including 5G, this is no longer the case in major 5G markets such as
South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the U.S.
• A faster, better, 5G experience encourages more cellular usage. In the past, mobile users relied on Wifi and only used cellular connections when Wifi was not available. With high quality 5G, mobile users will rely on their cellular connection more of the time which increases cellular
mobile data usage. Opensignal has already seen a marked speed advantage for 5G over public Wifi. Already, Apple offers options for 5G users to set their iPhone to use more data on 5G automatically, rather than restricting cellular mobile data use to be different to Wifi because
of 5G’s quality. Also, a faster 5G experience makes cellular more viable for users to tether devices to their smartphone and share the cellular connection. 5g data