A report by Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting indicates that the introduction of unlimited data plans has seen mobile data usage double. Before the introduction of unlimited plans over a year ago, the average data usage pattern was relatively simple. During the morning and evenings, data usage was pretty low, but during the day data consumption would increase with certain spikes at different times. Since the introduction of the unlimited data plans, though, the pattern has changed slightly.
The pattern of a lower data consumption in the mornings remains the same but as the day progresses, the amount of data in use surges significantly. Eventually, it reaches a certain peak and remains at a very constant level for the majority of the day, in contrast to the previous usage pattern where consumption levels would peak various times throughout the day. In addition to this the time at which data consumption begins to decline once again is now slightly later than before. Despite all of this, the biggest change is certainly the sheer amount of data being consumed, with peaks now reaching double the amount of data in use before the introduction of unlimited plans. The average cost of 1GB of data has dropped too. A year ago the average cost was $9, but today that figure has dropped significantly to just $1.80, largely because of increasing competition among carriers. The increased data consumption goes hand in hand with recent reports that the average speed on 4G networks began to decline in the second quarter of the year when compared to Q1, largely because of an increased network demand. Fortunately for consumers, carriers are still working on multiple ways to increase their 4G LTE network capacity, meaning mobile data speeds should not see a steep decline anytime soon.
Because of this, Sharma did go on to warn that the demand for a next generation 5G network may not necessarily be as high as people are hoping. After all, with 4G networks currently coping without any major problems, the pressure to launch the next generation network is not exactly overwhelming. Nonetheless, it was mentioned that the expectations of what a new 5G network will eventually bring may be slightly overhyped, with real world results possibly being much more underwhelming. But considering carriers are still investing heavily in the technology, once there is a need for a next generation network to cope with demand 5G should be readily available.