Quantifying the Impact of 5G and COVID-19 on Mobile Data Consumption

June 2021

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Real-world experience
Scientific analysis
Francesco Rizzato
Principal Technical Analyst
Ian Fogg
VP Analysis

Key Findings

5G users are on average consuming up to 2.7x more mobile data than 4G users

In all 20 leading 5G markets analyzed, we see much greater mobile data usage among 5G smartphone users than by 4G users. The greatest increases are in Japan (2.7x), Canada (2.2x), Germany (2.1x) and South Korea (2.1x). The three markets with the greatest 5G data consumption are Taiwan (47.3 GB/month), Saudi Arabia (42.0 GB/month) and South Korea (37.9 GB/month).

There’s no sign of 5G mobile congestion nationally, even in high usage 5G markets

To date, 5G is severing the link between high mobile data traffic and network congestion. The markets for 5G data consumption also top Opensignal’s 5G global experience benchmarks. In effect, 5G users are able to enjoy both much faster download speeds and consume much more data. Historically, where mobile users consumed large amounts of data it causes network congestion which depresses speeds, but for 5G users we see no indication of slowdowns in markets with high 5G data consumption.

Despite lockdowns, mobile data usage is still rising

Between the first quarter of 2020 and the same quarter in 2021 there was an average increase in monthly mobile data usage of 1.3 GB per smartphone user (17.2%) across the 65 markets Opensignal analyzed, although it’s slightly lower than the 2.1 GB increase in the previous year.

The proportion of both heavy and light smartphone users is increasing

Average mobile data consumption figures hide key trends. In 89% of the markets, we saw an increase in the proportion of heavy smartphone users that used over 1 GB in a day between the first quarters of 2021 and 2020. But 54% of markets also saw an increase in the proportion of smartphone users consuming under 50 MB a day. Operators need to understand how their competitors’ usage patterns are changing in order to adjust their strategy.

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