UK mobile users want refunds for unused data in lockdown

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Lockdown measures in the UK have caused a reduction in mobile data consumption that has left customers with a combined 165 million GB in unused allowances, according to research from uSwitch.

The coronavirus pandemic has elevated the importance of mobile and broadband services in society, with people relying on connectivity for work, communications and entertainment.

However restrictions on movement mean the majority of this data traffic is being handled by home Wi-Fi rather than mobile networks.

Excess data

The result is a temporary reversal in average mobile data volumes, which have historically been on an upward trajectory. uSwitch says the average mobile phone user is consuming 500MB less under lockdown, contributing to a 21 per cent decline in the average to 1.9GB a month.

“We have mobile deals set up to accommodate browsing on the go - but since so many of us are homebound and relying on Wi-Fi to stay connected, we’re simply not burning through our data allowances in the same way,” said Ru Bhihka, mobiles expert at uSwitch.

Two fifths of mobile customers would like their unused allowance rolled over to the following month – a service offered by some operators like Sky – while 22 per cent said they would like a refund. Eight per cent would like the equivalent cost donated to charity, while 11 per cent would prefer their excess to be given to essential workers.

Consumption among essential workers has risen by 100MB during the pandemic, with mobile operators taking steps to ensure that everyone remains connected. Special tariffs for key workers, alongside the zero-rating of access to essential health resources are being offered, while there has also been a pledge not to disconnect anyone during the crisis.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.