How much do you spend on data per month?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 27, 2012

From the time that smartphones and tablets started to become more and more popular, data prices have been on the rise ... sort of. Providers have begun building out expensive wireless networks that are better optimized for data services than their 3G counterparts; thus, to offset any loses caused by the rapid build-out, they have shied away from truly unlimited data for much more profitable, tiered data plans.

And, unlike their unlimited predecessors, tiered data plans have been perceived as expensive and unforgiving – mainly because they are by comparison.

As you would imagine with an unlimited data plan, usage was not restricted. You could use your phone, nonstop, from morning until night every single day of the month without ever receiving a notification telling you to give it a rest. There were never any overages, your usage was not purposefully hindered or throttled in any way. All was well in the world.

After five or six years of getting used to this, carriers abruptly sat their foot down and reacted to smartphone adoption and heavy data usage as if it happened overnight – or as if nobody saw it coming from a mile away. Now they force tiered data plans with low limits on new subscribers and make it difficult for users who are grandfathered into their old, unlimited plans by throttling usage. Customers pay anywhere from $20 to $100 per month for a data plan with a (soft or firm) limit. Once that limit is reached, the speeds are severely throttled, or the user is automatically charged and overage fee and granted another (small) amount of data to be used until the end of the billing period.

In truth, tiered data likely affects only a small number of users. A report from billmonitor yesterday revealed that a surprising 49 percent of British smartphone users use only 100MB of data per month, yet 88 percent of those users pay for 500MB of data each month. billmonitor also learned that smartphone data use has more than doubled in the past 18 months. The average UK smartphone user now uses 154MB per month, versus the 71MB per month average from 18 months ago. And nearly 30 percent of smartphone users use more than 250MB per month.

When you compare this usage to the data offerings here in the States, it makes you wonder just why people are upset over tiered data. Results from UK smartphone users differ some, but not too much from the average U.S. smartphone user. Just last August, MLB Advanced Media revealed that the average Verizon data user used 512.4MB per month. Yet many still complain about 2GB, 3GB, 5GB and 10GB data limits. It makes you wonder if most people ever come close to their limit, or if they even know how much data they use each month.

That said, there are obviously always going to be power users, such as myself, who struggle to stay below a total of 6GB to 10GB per month. And, to some, my usage might seem sparse. We asked readers in the past how much data they use on average, and some of the responses were surprising. While most of the commenters' usage stayed below the 2GB threshold, some claimed to use over 10GB per month. One commenter even claimed to use 20 to 25GB every month.

What makes all of this more interesting, however, is a study done by Parks Associates research firm. In the Mobile Data and Applications report, Parks Associates claim that two-thirds of Americans are not willing to pay $50 per month for data, reports Engadget. (Shocker!) Furthermore, "the study shows nearly 50 percent of smartphone users are completely oblivious to the amount of data they're consuming every month," says Engadget's Edgar Alvarez.

The question is: how much are you willing to pay for data each month? Also, do you actually use all of your data? Do you keep up with it? Or do you pay for an extra large plan to keep from hitting your limit?

Unfortunately, data is a necessity in my life and I will have to pay for it one way or another. Currently, I pay $100 each month for three separate data plans. I'm not particularly happy about that, and plan on cutting it back in the near future. But at the bare minimum, I will be paying $80 per month for the two plans.

It's safe to say I get my money's worth by using as much as I possibly can without going over. If one of the two plans I pay for was not a grandfathered unlimited plan, I would likely be paying more and getting more overage charges on each bill. I have yet to have a single overage for data, but that's bound to happen with time, as is throttling on my unlimited plan.

But I'm curious, readers. Are you willing to pay $50 or more per month for data? Or do you fall within Parks Associate's statistic? Do you actually keep up with your monthly usage? Have you ever gone over?