children on smartphoneWireless subscriber’s monthly mobile data usage patterns differ when it comes to utilization of cellular or WiFi networks depending upon whether they are on limited or unlimited plans. One thing both groups do a lot, however, is stream video.

The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Smartphone and Tablet Usage report found that cellular usage was 67% higher among subscribers with unlimited plans. Limited plan subscribers are more apt to rely on WiFi. Over the last three months of 2017, limited plan users consumed 8% more WiFi than unlimited users, including a spike of 18% more WiFi usage in October. iOS users lean toward cellular data and Android toward WiFi.

Monthly Mobile Data Usage
The total amount of usage has increased as well. Combined WiFi and cellular data usage stands at 31.4 GB, an increase of 25% compared to a year ago when the total was 25.2 GB per month.

“Unlimited data plans have become the de facto offering in the market and the significant variance between consumption levels of unlimited plan and limited plan users can be alarming for mobile carriers, as networks become increasingly congested,” wrote Brad Akyuz, director, industry analyst for NPD’s Connected Intelligence in a press release. “When users migrate from limited plans to unlimited plans, their consumption behavior shifts in favor of using cellular data more regularly. 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.”

Streaming video accounts for 83% of data usage on cellular and WiFi data on fixed and mobile networks. In the third quarter of 2017, 67% of smartphone users accessed video via an app at least once per month. Fifty-seven percent did so in the second quarter.

The findings, of course, confirm the growing popularity of video streaming. More importantly, it suggests that people pay close attention to what type of network they are using when there is a cost penalty for one compared to the other. The elimination of this cost penalty results in different usage patterns. It makes sense that this would happen. It is, however, important to see data that actually confirms it.

Image courtesy of flickr user Kyle Mahaney.

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