Lockdown Britain sitting on top of 165 million gigabytes of unused data

Being cooped up inside for seven weeks straight has resulted in a treasure trove of unused mobile data, valued in the region of £165 million.

According to data from Uswitch.com, the average Brit is using 1.9 GB of data a month, compared to 2.4 GB in February, before the full impact of the COVID-19 lockdown set in. Thanks to customers being restricted to their homes, wifi routers and home fixed broadband networks are getting a workout, while the mobile networks are more relaxed.

Data usage for essential workers has increased by 11% when comparing the two period, but this does not compensate for the 21% drop-off from non-essential workers. The data is being paid for, but currently going unused.

“We have mobile deals set up to accommodate browsing on the go – but since so many of us are homebound and relying on Wi-Fi to stay connected, we’re simply not burning through our data allowances in the same way,” said Ru Bhihka of Uswitch.com.

“Many consumers would like to see this data rolled over to when they have more use for it, and it’s great to see some providers like Sky Mobile already doing that.”

What to consumers want to happen to leftover data?
Rolled over to next month 38%
Refunded 22%
Donated to essential workers 11%
Donated to charity 8%

Sky is one company which allows data to be rolled over to the next month, though this was a feature which was already in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Virgin Media is another which offers this feature, while others offer it on very specific deals. O2 allows customers to rollover data which is purchased as a bolt-on, while Vodafone offers the feature on its Big Value bundle for Pay as You Go customers.

Uswitch.com estimates unused data costs UK customers £50 million a year in overpayments, while the major providers still operate a ‘use it or lose it’ arrangement for the vast majority of products.

Overall, postpaid customers are most likely experiencing a net gain for the price of data when you consider trends and data bundles over prior years, but that will not stop some feeling cheated by the telcos today.

What should be worth noting is that there are numerous initiatives from the telcos to assist various segments of society through this period. Vodafone and EE, for instance, are offering free unlimited data upgrades for customers who are essential workers, while all fixed broadband companies have lifted data caps on services.

Belfast tops the UK charts for mobile connectivity

Rootmetrics has crowned Belfast the best city in the UK for mobile connectivity across the first six months of 2018.

Sneaking just ahead of Edinburgh and Sheffield, Belfast scored 96.3 overall, while also ranking in the top three positions in five of the categories measured. Having ranked first for overall performance, network reliability and data performance, the Northern Irish city also ranked second for network speed and call performance.

Looking at the overall table, the rankings do not make for comfortable reading for anyone living in the south of the UK. Nine of the top ten positions were taken by cities which were in the Midlands, the North or Scotland, with leading light Belfast taking up the final spot. London dropped down to 16th overall.

“As the capital city and business epicentre of the UK, you would expect connectivity that is equal to or better than rivals, but that hasn’t been the case to this point,” said Head of Product at RootMetrics Kevin Hasley.

“5G may well be the cure London needs, but currently, performance in other cities like Belfast and Edinburgh has been stronger. It will be interesting to see how the cities at the top end of the rankings encourage investment in new infrastructure to support 5G and thus maintain their dominance.”

For those who bemoan the attention and influence the capital commands over the rest of the UK, this might come as somewhat of an uplift. Companies take numerous factors into account when selected sites for new locations, with mobile connectivity becoming an increasing important one. In the age of IoT and 5G, this might well become more of a conscious factor possibly leading to a more evenly distributed economy throughout the UK.