Mobile data usage nearly doubled in the last year according to a study published by industry analyst Chetan Sharma, a consultant for wireless carriers. On a global scale the average is now at 240MB per month, up from 140MB last year, while usage on the US jumped from 690MB to 1.2GB on average during 2013.
Sharma said the uptick in data use could be attributed, at least partly, to the widespread coverage LTE, along with faster and bigger smartphones better suited for browsing. Though not explicitly mentioned in the report, the growing popularity of mobile apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and Vine probably played their part too.
If data usage keeps growing at this pace it could be a boon for companies like T-Mobile or Sprint, which unlike Verizon and AT&T, don’t enforce hard limits on data usage per month. For now the average is still within lower ~4GB tiers offered by these carriers, though, and although Verizon’s CEO has said unlimited plans are not sustainable there’s nothing stopping them from gradually adapting to consumers’ growing needs.
For what it’s worth Wi-Fi continues to play an important role in mobile data traffic, helping offload as much as 60% to 70% of the total traffic in most countries. With Wi-Fi sharing services like Fon making their way to the US in 2013 and companies like Republic Wireless falling back to Wi-Fi to provide service, there’s still a lot going on in this space to keep you from being at the mercy of wireless carriers’ data caps and overage charges.