How many consumers regularly hit their data limit?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
April 01, 2021, 1:31 PM UTC

As mobile data use continues to rise, continuously collected YouGov data shows how many consumers regularly go over their data limit. 

Roughly a third of American adults say they habitually hit their limit (32%), making them the most likely to say so compared to those in four other key markets we looked at, which include Great Britain, Japan, France, and Germany. 

The mobile industry in particular is experiencing a seismic shift brought on by a confluence of events that are changing data usage. For one, we’re in the early days of 5G, which is expected to accelerate data usage. Also, more workers will work from home well after the pandemic. Such a change will mean enterprise data needs will be forever altered. But so will the needs of the end user, who will likely commute less and may be tethered to wifi connections more frequently. For many new home-workers, their mobile phones have simply become phones as they stay in the same place for long periods.  

Looking closer at recent behavioral changes in the US market, we see a clear uptick in regular video consumption on mobile phones over the last nine months. Video streaming generally requires large amounts of network data compared to other mobile activities. The number of consumers using their phone to watching videos on a regular basis increased by four percentage points, as did listening to music. Watching TV at least once a day increased by three points. While much of this increased consumption may have taken place via wifi connections, as people become more mobile again (and rely on network data more) it will be interesting to see if these habits stick. 

Meanwhile, three in ten German consumers (30%) say they max out their data, as do nearly a quarter of Brits (23%) and consumers in France (22%). 

In our five-market comparison, consumers in Japan are the least likely to report hitting data limits on a regular basis (12%). While this could be attributed to several factors, one reason could be that data plans in Japan are generally cheaper than those in the other four markets. 

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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data regarding data usage is based on a sample size between 9,661 and 257,289 adults depending on market. Online interviews were conducted March 2020 and March 2021. Profiles data regarding mobile activities is based on a sample size of 8,664 US adults in July 2020 data and 5,275 in March 2021. Profiles data is nationally representative.

Image: Getty