As more consumers switch to unlimited data plans, they’re using those cellular networks more. And WiFi networks less.
According to The NPD Group, cellular data usage among consumers with unlimited plans is 67% higher than those who have data limits. (Those with limited plans are relying more on WiFi networks. Apple users also tend to use more cellular data, while Android users are more reliant on WiFi, according to NPD.)
“When users are given bigger data buckets, their usage patterns shift,” Brad Akyuz, director and industry analyst for NPD’s Connected Intelligence, tells Marketing Daily. “Users on unlimited plans don’t regularly seek Wi-Fi connectivity for data-hungry transactions such as video streaming, application updates, and downloads as they are not concerned about data overage fees.”
At the same time, cellular data and WiFi consumption usage continues to rise as smartphone users access video content, social media, music, and more. According to NPD, the average smartphone user consumes a total of 31.4 GB of data (both WiFi and cellular) a month, up 25% from a year ago (which averaged 25.2 GB per user). Streaming video is the number one driver of cellular and Wi-Fi data consumption, accounting for 83% of the total data used by smartphone owners, according to NPD.
As more consumers move to unlimited data plans (which are becoming the norm), it will be “interesting to see how these plans are marketed in the next year or so,” Akyuz says. “It’s clear that unlimited data will become table stakes,” he says. “Carriers will have to find other ways to differentiate themselves.”
One approach those carriers might take could be to set up pricing plans based on speed, much as cable companies do for in-home WiFi. “We’ll also see carriers offering [screen] resolution-based pricing,” Akyuz says, with higher-definition packages commanding higher prices.
While there will also be a lot of buzz around next-generation 5G wireless, it’s likely plans using that capability will not move into the consumer market until very late in the year, or early 2019, Akyuz says. “Right now, it’s an enterprise [i.e., business] play,” he says. “The carriers are still figuring out how to work that into their consumer plans.”