4G is a dangerous friend, stealing our free time and making it easier to spend hours surfing, streaming and downloading online. It offers significantly faster download speeds than 3G and can even outpace some fixed line broadband services.
But do you use more data on 4G than you did on 3G?
A report published by Informa Telecoms & Media found that average 4G customers burn through more data than they did with 3G devices. The biggest drain on data was video streaming, with Netflix subscribers on 4G plans doubling the amount of data they consumed by watching video. The reason for video streaming being far more prevalent and popular on 4G is that faster download speeds and lower network latency lead to a smoother, more consistent experience. If you’ve tried watching a Netflix movie via 3G you may well appreciate that it can be a stop-start process which is difficult to endure. 4G solves these issues and means that we're more likely to churn through a data allowance at a faster rate, especially if we don't keep tabs on usage.
Services such as Netflix and youTube also tend to serve you the best possible pixel quality that will allow you to watch uninterrupted. This often means 4G will deliver HD footage versus the standard definition quality over a stuttering 3G connection.
A higher streaming quality is guaranteed to use more data, so if you're on 4G and running low on allowances, make sure you change your video playback to standard definition.
But what about the other services you’ll want to access? For example, how much data does Skype use when you make calls? Thankfully the most data-intensive thing you can do with your smartphone is stream video, so most other activities will not put quite as much strain on your data allowance. On average a minute-long call between two Skype users will consume 3MB of data, with calls to mobile or landline numbers using 1MB per minute because of the lower audio quality.
Of course if you want to make a video call, then the consumption will obviously be higher and you could get through 30 to 50MB a minute when using a 4G connection. Web browsing is right at the bottom of the scale when it comes to data consumption, although 4G will load pages faster, meaning you're likely get through more content in the same space of time.
In short, 4G is a blessing when it comes to our favourite internet services. however, as we're getting through higher quality content at a faster rate, it's bound to eat through a load more data than we used to use on 3G. Be sure to keep an eye on your usage, or invest in a tariff with an ample data allowance.