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Wifi usage explains why Sardinian smartphone users consume the most mobile data in Italy

Opensignal analyzed mobile data consumption across Italian regions during the second quarter of 2021, and found that smartphone users in Sardinia consumed the most data on average, followed by Sicily and the two northern macro regions. By contrast, our users in the South and Center macro regions consumed the least amount of mobile data.

Interestingly, we also found that smartphone users that spent longer connected to Wifi consumed less mobile data across the various regions analyzed. This negative correlation helps to explain the differences in mobile data consumption in different regions.

Our Italian smartphone users on average consumed 10.9 GB of mobile data per month during the second quarter of 2021. However, that amount varied when we analyzed different regions in the country. 

On average, our users in the Center and South consumed 9.8 GB and 9.9 GB, of mobile data, which was lower than the Italian average by 9.6% and 9%, respectively. The average monthly mobile data usage in the rest of the regions we analyzed was higher than the Italian average. North West, North East and Sicily scored 11.1 GB, 11.3 GB and 11.7 GB, representing increases of between 1.7% and 8.1% compared to the national average. Our users in Sardinia consumed the highest amount of mobile data — 12.8 GB per month — which was 17.4% higher than the national average, and 29.9% higher than what our users consumed on average in the Center region.

We then compared our users’ average mobile data consumption with the average time they spent connected to Wifi networks.

We found that our users in Sardinia, who on average consumed the highest amount of mobile data, were the ones spending the least amount of time connected to Wifi networks. By contrast, our users in the Center and South regions, who on average consumed the lowest amount of mobile data, spent the highest proportion of time on Wifi. This regional difference in the time that smartphone users spend connected to Wifi partially reflects different levels of adoption of fixed home broadband across different regions.

We observed this negative correlation between average mobile data usage and the proportion of time users spent connected to Wifi persist over time. Interestingly, as movement restrictions eased in Italy during 2021 and users were spending more time outdoors, and therefore less time indoors where they were more likely to connect to Wifi, we observed that our users’ average mobile data consumption increased. 

In a recent report, we analyzed mobile data consumption over the past three years and observed the existence of organic growth across most countries, despite the COVID-19 pandemic making it harder to observe long term trends. AGCOM’s data confirms that mobile data consumption in Italy has been growing steadily over the past years, rising from an average of 1.87 GB/month in 2016 to 9.72 GB/month in 2020. 

This means that, while we cannot attribute the full impact of the increase in mobile data usage that we observed among the first two quarters of 2021 solely to the variation in the time our users spent connected to Wifi networks, our data indicates that users in different Italian regions on average spend different amounts of time connected to Wifi, and that has an impact on how much mobile data they consume.