Mobile internet statistics

The latest mobile internet statistics on how we use the Internet on our phones.

When shopping for a new deal or mobile phone it is important to get the deal that is right for you and now more than ever that also means finding the mobile plan with the right amount of mobile internet for you. We looked at the mobile internet statistics to see just how much data we are consuming on our phones in 2020.

Quick overview

  • In 2020, 84% of UK adults own a smartphone.
  • On average, Brits spend 2 hours and 34 minutes online on their smartphones every day.
  • In 2019, 72% of mobile connections are 4G, up from 66% in 2018.
  • Over 1 in 5 minutes spent online is spent on social media.
  • In 2019, each Brit used on average 2.9 GB of mobile data every month. On-demand video services used 56% of all our mobile data.
  • According to our 2019 research, two thirds of UK residents (67%) don’t normally use all the mobile data they pay for.
  • In 2019, 619,000 premises in the UK couldn’t access decent broadband.
  • In fact, ultrafast broadband was only available to over 49% of UK premises for the first time in 2018 (53% in 2019).

Who owns a smartphone?

For some of us, it can be hard to remember what life was like before we had smartphones, but they are still a relatively new technology. So how many Brits own a smartphone in 2020?

Research suggests 84% of UK adults (16+) own a smartphone in 2020. However, the breakdown across age categories reveals a more detailed insight.

Those aged 16-24 were most likely to have mobile Internet access, with 98% owning a smartphone. In comparison, just 53% of those aged 65+ have internet access via smartphone ownership, the lowest use out of any age group. See the graph and table below to find out more.

Age group Has access to the Internet via mobile phone Does not have access to the Internet via mobile phone
16-24 98% 2%
25-34 96% 4%
35-44 97% 3%
45-54 95% 5%
55-64 77% 23%
65+ 53% 47%
Since the release of the first popular smartphone by Apple in 2007, Apple’s popularity as top choice for UK consumers has consistently grown. It is now the most dominant mobile vendor on the UK market, owning 48.8% of the UK mobile market as of June 2019.
Apple Samsung Huawei Sony Other
2018-06 46% 31% 5% 3% 14%
2018-07 46% 31% 6% 4% 14%
2018-08 48% 30% 6% 3% 13%
2018-09 49% 29% 6% 3% 13%
2018-10 54% 26% 5% 3% 12%
2018-11 60% 22% 4% 2% 12%
2018-12 52% 28% 6% 2% 11%
2019-01 51% 30% 6% 2% 10%
2019-02 52% 30% 6% 2% 10%
2019-03 49% 30% 7% 3% 11%
2019-04 49% 30% 8% 3% 11%
2019-05 49% 29% 8% 2% 11%
2019-06 49% 30% 8% 2% 11%

How much data are we using?

On our phones, Ofcom reported that we are using 25% more data per month in 2019 than we were in 2018. On average, Brits are using 2.9GB of data each month.

The amount of data you consume each month will depend on the activities you perform on your phone. For example, streaming videos can quickly eat up your allowance, with HD (1080p) streaming using approximately 1.5GB per hour. To find out how much data you might need every month, you can use our handy data usage calculator.

According to our research, two-thirds (67%) of UK residents don’t normally use all of the mobile data they pay for, while nearly 7% of Brits end up spending more money on extra data.

Usage Percentage
Use less than they're allowed 67.3%
Normally use the right amount 12.2%
Reach their data limit most months 11.6%
Spend more on extra data 6.3%
Have unlimited data plan 7.4%

Where are we spending our time online?

On average, in 2020 Brits are spending 4 hours and 2 minutes online per day, with over two thirds (71%) of this time being spent online on their smartphone. This amounts almost 3 hours on a smartphone each day, a 30% increase from 2019. So what are we doing online?

  • On average, Brits spend 49 minutes per day on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok.
  • This means over 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is on social media.
  • Over 70% of adults in the UK have a social media account.
  • More than a third (35%) of our time spent online is on sites owned by Facebook and Google such as Instagram and YouTube.

In 2019, the most data-intensive activity one could do was video streaming, with an average data use of 500 MB per hour. Video calling was a distant second, costing roughly 180 MB of your monthly plan per hour, followed by instant messaging, online video gaming and social media, all of which share third place with an average hourly cost of 50 MB.

Activity Average data use (per hour)
Web browsing/Social media 50MB
Instant messaging 50MB
Email 1MB
Music streaming 100MB
Video streaming 500MB
Online gaming 50MB
Video calling 180MB

Internet and working from home

With millions of people heading in self-isolation and working from home amid the current Coronavirus pandemic, daytime internet usage has more than doubled. Video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype and Houseparty have gained popularity as workers, students, friends and families use them to stay in touch while apart.

However, these video conferencing apps have different data requirements. Google Hangouts is one of the video call apps that takes the most bandwidth, requiring 14.1MB per minute. This is shy of twice as much as the second-worst offender, Zoom, who only requires 7.5MB per minute. If you’re sharing your internet with someone or have a small plan, it might be a good idea to aim for a video conference app that needs less internet, like Webex or Skype.

App MB per minute
Facetime 2.9
Messenger 3.5
Webex 4.2
WhatsApp 4.7
Skype 6.8
Zoom 7.5
Google Hangouts 14.1

Households with access to the internet

It seems today that every household is connected to the internet, but that didn’t always used to be the case. For example, back in 2018, 90% of UK households were connected to the internet compared to just 65% of households 10 years ago. We looked at the stats to see how internet access has changed over time.

Year Percentage
2018 90%
2017 90%
2016 89%
2015 86%
2014 84%
2013 83%
2012 80%
2011 77%
2010 73%
2009 70%
2008 65%
2007 61%
2006 57%
2005 55%
2004 49%
2003 46%
2002 42%
2001 36%
2000 25%
1999 13%
1998 9%

Which areas in the UK spend the most time on the internet?

While most areas don’t stray too far from the average, a couple of spots go online so much that the rest of the map looks washed out by comparison: West Lothian in Scotland, and Thanet in Kent, each spending 4.2 and 4.7 hours online per person per day respectively.

Full data: internet use by local authority

Avg GB used per person per dayEstimated hours per day
Thanet5.84.7
West Lothian5.24.2
Fife3.73.1
Glasgow City3.52.9
Tameside3.42.7
Hastings3.32.7
Manchester3.32.7
Blackpool3.32.7
Blaenau Gwent3.32.7
Corby3.32.7
Rhondda Cynon Taf3.22.7
Dundee City3.22.7
Caerphilly3.22.6
Clackmannanshire3.22.6
Salford3.22.6
Merthyr Tydfil3.22.6
Lambeth3.22.6
Liverpool3.22.6
Hammersmith and Fulham3.12.6
Norwich3.12.6
Milton Keynes3.12.5
Reading3.12.5
Bridgend3.12.5
Falkirk3.12.5
Nottingham3.12.5
Torfaen3.12.5
Barking and Dagenham3.12.5
Dartford3.12.5
North Lanarkshire3.12.5
Barrow-in-Furness3.12.5
Southampton3.12.5
Eastbourne3.12.5
Thurrock3.12.5
Coventry3.02.5
Greenwich3.02.5
Forest Heath3.02.5
Halton3.02.5
North Ayrshire3.02.5
Newham3.02.5
Hounslow3.02.5
Islington3.02.5
Lewisham3.02.5
Aberdeen City3.02.5
Sunderland3.02.4
Hackney3.02.4
Hyndburn3.02.4
East Ayrshire3.02.4
Midlothian3.02.4
Three Rivers3.02.4
Basildon3.02.4
Newcastle upon Tyne3.02.4
Brent3.02.4
Knowsley3.02.4
Northampton3.02.4
Worcester3.02.4
Lewes3.02.4
Tower Hamlets3.02.4
Southwark2.92.4
Runnymede2.92.4
Chelmsford2.92.4
Cardiff2.92.4
Brighton and Hove2.92.4
Croydon2.92.4
Mansfield2.92.4
West Dunbartonshire2.92.4
Ashfield2.92.4
Renfrewshire2.92.4
Bracknell Forest2.92.4
Ealing2.92.4
Peterborough2.92.4
Crawley2.92.4
Southend-on-Sea2.92.4
Stirling2.92.4
Haringey2.92.4
Lincoln2.92.4
Wandsworth2.92.4
Stoke-on-Trent2.92.4
Leeds2.92.4
Barnet2.92.4
Bury2.92.4
County Durham2.92.4
Harlow2.92.4
Canterbury2.92.3
Portsmouth2.92.3
Bolsover2.92.3
Wolverhampton2.92.3
South Lanarkshire2.92.3
Carlisle2.92.3
Boston2.92.3
Waltham Forest2.92.3
Watford2.92.3
Neath Port Talbot2.82.3
Ipswich2.82.3
Tamworth2.82.3
Medway2.82.3
Weymouth and Portland2.82.3
Sandwell2.82.3
Rochdale2.82.3
East Renfrewshire2.82.3
Cannock Chase2.82.3
Leicester2.82.3
Swale2.82.3
Lancaster2.82.3
Wellingborough2.82.3
Wakefield2.82.3
Slough2.82.3
Windsor and Maidenhead2.82.3
Westminster2.82.3
Preston2.82.3
Belfast2.82.3
Copeland2.82.3
Sheffield2.82.3
Rossendale2.82.3
Inverclyde2.82.3
Great Yarmouth2.82.3
Blackburn with Darwen2.82.3
Swindon2.82.3
Doncaster2.82.3
Havering2.82.3
Vale of Glamorgan2.82.3
Fenland2.82.3
Calderdale2.82.3
Wrexham2.82.3
Plymouth2.82.3
Colchester2.82.3
Hillingdon2.82.3
Redbridge2.82.3
Enfield2.82.3
City of Edinburgh2.82.3
Oldham2.82.3
Wirral2.82.3
Bournemouth2.82.3
Chesterfield2.82.3
Kettering2.72.2
East Lothian2.72.2
Bexley2.72.2
Barnsley2.72.2
Derby2.72.2
Sedgemoor2.72.2
Camden2.72.2
Gravesham2.72.2
Braintree2.72.2
Arun2.72.2
South Tyneside2.72.2
Basingstoke and Deane2.72.2
Birmingham2.72.2
Rochford2.72.2
Moray2.72.2
Newport2.72.2
Middlesbrough2.72.2
Sefton2.72.2
Oxford2.72.2
Gateshead2.72.2
Torbay2.72.2
Spelthorne2.72.2
Burnley2.72.2
Rushmoor2.72.2
Bristol, City of2.72.2
Hartlepool2.72.2
Wycombe2.72.2
Stockport2.72.2
Nuneaton and Bedworth2.72.2
Adur2.72.2
Worthing2.72.2
East Staffordshire2.72.2
Telford and Wrekin2.72.2
Bolton2.72.2
Tendring2.72.2
Welwyn Hatfield2.72.2
Warrington2.72.2
Dacorum2.62.2
Rugby2.62.2
Stevenage2.62.2
Swansea2.62.2
West Lancashire2.62.2
High Peak2.62.2
Waveney2.62.2
Wigan2.62.2
Ashford2.62.2
Redditch2.62.2
Flintshire2.62.2
Rotherham2.62.2
Castle Point2.62.1
Luton2.62.1
Amber Valley2.62.1
Bradford2.62.1
Eastleigh2.62.1
Angus2.62.1
Conwy2.62.1
Northumberland2.62.1
North Tyneside2.62.1
East Cambridgeshire2.62.1
Antrim and Newtownabbey2.62.1
Shepway2.62.1
Surrey Heath2.62.1
Waverley2.62.1
Walsall2.62.1
North East Lincolnshire2.62.1
Pendle2.62.1
Harrow2.62.1
Denbighshire2.62.1
Hertsmere2.62.1
Fylde2.62.1
Sutton2.62.1
South Ayrshire2.62.1
Cheshire West and Chester2.62.1
Broxbourne2.62.1
Bromley2.62.1
Guildford2.62.1
Ards and North Down2.62.1
Erewash2.62.1
St. Helens2.62.1
Newcastle-under-Lyme2.52.1
Kensington and Chelsea2.52.1
Cambridge2.52.1
Havant2.52.1
Merton2.52.1
Richmond upon Thames2.52.1
Elmbridge2.52.1
South Derbyshire2.52.1
Gloucester2.52.1
Cherwell2.52.1
Reigate and Banstead2.52.1
Mid Sussex2.52.1
Trafford2.52.1
North Warwickshire2.52.1
Derry City and Strabane2.52.1
Epsom and Ewell2.52.1
Wokingham2.52.0
Cheshire East2.52.0
Warwick2.52.0
Wyre2.52.0
Brentwood2.52.0
South Holland2.52.0
Selby2.52.0
Dover2.52.0
North Lincolnshire2.52.0
South Bucks2.52.0
Kirklees2.52.0
Bassetlaw2.52.0
Gosport2.52.0
Redcar and Cleveland2.52.0
Cheltenham2.52.0
Woking2.52.0
Darlington2.52.0
Chorley2.52.0
Isle of Wight2.52.0
Charnwood2.42.0
Huntingdonshire2.42.0
Solihull2.42.0
Craven2.42.0
Mid and East Antrim2.42.0
South Kesteven2.42.0
South Ribble2.42.0
Bath and North East Somerset2.42.0
Dudley2.42.0
Breckland2.42.0
Blaby2.42.0
Allerdale2.42.0
North Somerset2.42.0
Newark and Sherwood2.42.0
Wyre Forest2.42.0
West Berkshire2.42.0
St Edmundsbury2.42.0
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon2.42.0
Epping Forest2.42.0
Poole2.42.0
Test Valley2.42.0
York2.42.0
Carmarthenshire2.42.0
Horsham2.42.0
Oadby and Wigston2.42.0
South Oxfordshire2.42.0
East Northamptonshire2.42.0
Stockton-on-Tees2.41.9
Hinckley and Bosworth2.41.9
Scarborough2.41.9
Rother2.41.9
East Hampshire2.41.9
Harborough2.41.9
Tandridge2.41.9
Scottish Borders2.41.9
Exeter2.41.9
Sevenoaks2.41.9
Tunbridge Wells2.31.9
Hart2.31.9
Broxtowe2.31.9
Staffordshire Moorlands2.31.9
North East Derbyshire2.31.9
Daventry2.31.9
Taunton Deane2.31.9
Lisburn and Castlereagh2.31.9
East Hertfordshire2.31.9
North West Leicestershire2.31.9
Wealden2.31.9
South Gloucestershire2.31.9
King’s Lynn and West Norfolk2.31.9
Mole Valley2.31.9
Bromsgrove2.31.9
North Kesteven2.31.9
Monmouthshire2.31.9
Gedling2.31.9
St Albans2.31.9
Wiltshire2.31.9
Lichfield2.31.9
Causeway Coast and Glens2.31.9
Wychavon2.31.9
Stafford2.31.9
Central Bedfordshire2.31.9
North Hertfordshire2.31.9
Torridge2.31.8
Newry, Mourne and Down2.31.8
West Lindsey2.21.8
Cornwall2.21.8
South Northamptonshire2.21.8
South Staffordshire2.21.8
Winchester2.21.8
Maldon2.21.8
Aylesbury Vale2.21.8
Chichester2.21.8
New Forest2.21.8
Perth and Kinross2.21.8
East Riding of Yorkshire2.21.8
Isle of Anglesey2.21.8
North Devon2.21.8
Bedford2.21.8
East Lindsey2.21.8
Tonbridge and Malling2.21.8
Richmondshire2.21.8
Tewkesbury2.21.8
Aberdeenshire2.21.8
Chiltern2.21.8
Maidstone2.21.8
Vale of White Horse2.21.8
Stroud2.21.8
Teignbridge2.21.8
Fareham2.21.8
Harrogate2.21.8
Broadland2.21.8
Forest of Dean2.21.8
Dumfries and Galloway2.21.8
Kingston upon Thames2.11.8
Mendip2.11.8
West Oxfordshire2.11.8
South Somerset2.11.8
Rushcliffe2.11.8
Babergh2.11.7
Highland2.11.7
North Dorset2.11.7
South Norfolk2.11.7
Kingston upon Hull, City of2.11.7
Gwynedd2.11.7
Melton2.11.7
East Dorset2.11.7
Uttlesford2.11.7
East Dunbartonshire2.11.7
Ribble Valley2.11.7
Mid Devon2.11.7
Malvern Hills2.11.7
Suffolk Coastal2.11.7
South Cambridgeshire2.11.7
Stratford-on-Avon2.11.7
Christchurch2.11.7
Rutland2.11.7
Shropshire2.01.7
Pembrokeshire2.01.7
Purbeck2.01.6
Herefordshire, County of2.01.6
Mid Ulster2.01.6
Argyll and Bute2.01.6
East Devon1.91.6
Powys1.91.6
Mid Suffolk1.91.6
Hambleton1.91.5
Cotswold1.91.5
South Lakeland1.91.5
West Dorset1.91.5
West Devon1.81.5
Fermanagh and Omagh1.81.5
Derbyshire Dales1.81.5
South Hams1.81.5
Isles of Scilly1.81.5
Eden1.81.5
North Norfolk1.81.5
Ryedale1.81.5
Ceredigion1.81.4
Shetland Islands1.71.4
West Somerset1.71.4
Orkney Islands1.71.4
City of London1.71.4
Na h-Eileanan Siar1.71.4

Wifi versus Mobile Data during lockdown

At times it is actually be better to use a mobile network instead of Wi-Fi. Since Italy went into lockdown on March 12, their mobile network has generally provided a better quality of service until about 2 p.m, after which Wi-Fi connections have given a more reliable connection.

Hour of Day Mobile Data Wifi
0 78 69
1 84 72
2 88 74
3 90 74
4 91 75
5 91 75
6 89 74
7 88 73
8 85 72
9 79 71
10 75 70
11 73 68
12 73 68
13 71 68
14 66 67
15 65 66
16 66 66
17 64 66
18 63 66
19 64 66
20 65 66
21 58 63
22 61 64
23 70 66

Of course this differs by country, but the trend elsewhere is similar. On the first day of stricter self-isolation measures in the U.K., 24 March, mobile networks provided better service until about 9 a.m., after which the Wi-Fi was again more reliable.

How has social media usage changed?

While Facebook remains the most popular social media network, usage in UK adults has fallen by 8% from 2013 to 2018. Google+ and Twitter were the only other social networks to fall in usage over the same time period. See the graph below for more information.

Social media site 2013 2018 Change
Facebook 96% 88% -8%
WhatsApp 20% 61% +41%
YouTube 22% 35% +13%
Snapchat 7% 25% 18%
Twitter 28% 25% -3%
LinkedIn 12% 16% +4%
Pinterest 2% 12% +10%
Google+ 16% 11% -5%
Tumblr 3% 3% 0%

3G, 4G and 5G: What’s the difference?

3G, 4G, 5G: what does it all mean? The number simply relates to which generation of cellular network technology it is. So, for example, 5G is simply the fifth “generation” of mobile Internet, the next one on from 4G. Each generation promises faster speeds than the one before, with 5G speeds potentially 20 times faster than 4G speeds.

Mobile network speeds

The speed of your mobile internet connection determines how fast you can download and stream content such as images and videos. So just how much faster is 5G than its predecessors?

Network Type Average Peak Theoretical max
3G Network 7.9Mbps ~20Mbps 42Mbps
4G Network 35.9Mbps 90+Mbps 300Mbps
5G Network 100-200Mbps 478.1Mbps+ 10-50Gbps

Download speed by provider

When looking at median download speed, the gap between operators is quite pronounced. Out of the four providers compared, EE is the company who has the best download speed of 21.2 Mbps, almost 8Mbps faster than second-placed Vodafone and more than double that of O2 and 3. The least fast was it for those downloading via 3’s network, whose average speed was 9.7Mbps.

Operator Downlaod Speed
EE 21.2 Mbps
Vodafone 13.3 Mbps
O2 9.9 Mbps
Three 9.7 Mbps

Latency time

This is the measure of how long it takes for the network to respond to a request, such as tapping play on a video. So how much quicker might 5G be than 4G?

Network Type Milliseconds (ms)
3G Network 60ms (actual)
4G Network 50ms (actual)
5G Network 1ms (theoretical)

Latency time is often measured in milliseconds, and 5G promises to have speeds up to 60 times faster than 3G with just a 1ms latency time.

Sources

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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