Mobile internet statistics

The latest 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 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.

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%

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.

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

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 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.


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

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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