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Three customers data usage doubles: What’s a data allowance and and why are we using more?

Three’s latest reports show that in the last 12 months, the network’s 4 million pay monthly smartphone customers have doubled their mobile data usage. Thankfully the network can handle the capacity, but why the increase?

Data usage is a tricky subject, not only because people are using their phones for things other than calling and texting more and more on a daily basis, but many don’t understand when they’re using mobile data and when they’re not. What’s more, it’s not always easy to keep track of your data usage and if you pass your limit, a costly bill could well be waiting for you at the end of the month.

iPhone Three data usage

Three’s UK pay monthly customers are benefiting from an unlimited mobile data allowance with The One Plan and Ultimate Internet. As the company’s CEO, Dave Dyson points out, “Price plans that remove the fear of going over a data limit enable demand to grow as consumers are free to discover just how much they can do on the move. Even I don’t understand how much data I use on a daily basis so it’s no surprise that having an all you can eat worry-free data package is proving to be so popular with our customers. ”

What’s a data allowance?

When 3G and mobile internet services really took off (around the launch of the iPhone in 2007), carriers were quick to offer their latest smartphones with unlimited data as part of their higher-end contracts. However, as demand for data grew and carriers realised their networks were being used for far more taxing things than just calls and texts, they decided to introduce data allowances, some retaining the ‘unlimited’ element but many only going as far as offering a limited number of MBs or GBs.

Three prides itself on being one of the few only networks built with mobile data in mind, so it’s appropriate that they also offer the widest range of tariffs with unlimited data.

What causes data usage?

All manner of services on your smartphone can take a bite out of your tariff’s data allowance. Sending an email is a relatively low-profile action, only taking using up a small amount of data, but downloading or uploading rich content like buying a 3D game or uploading a video to YouTube can exhaust a limited data allowance in hours, particularly tricky as tariffs usually operate on a monthly basis.

Three users last summer were reported to use on average 450MB of data, whilst this year, that figure has rocketed to more than double, at 1.1GB per user. The carrier also stated that their iPhone and premium Android users regularly surpass 1.5GB of mobile data a month.

How do I avoid exceeding my allowance?

Such heavy usage as Three’s customers is fine on an unlimited data tariff, but if you consider that 66% of UK smartphone users are on tariffs which offer a data allowance of 1GB or less, you can see what Mr Dyson was getting at.

There are a number of ways to avoid exceeding your data allowance. If you find yourself using a lot of online services or apps which synchronise data, like Twitter and Facebook, check their settings and reduce the frequency with which they sync. Certain apps like Onavo allow you to monitor your data usage from your smartphone and can even compress the data going between your phone and your network so you get more ‘bang for your buck’ each month. If tightening the belt and reducing the mobile usage on your current tariff isn’t working, it’s worth checking whether or not your network offers more data or even unlimited data, it might cost more per month, but save you money in the long run.

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