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Average data consumption eclipses half a terabyte per month – OpenVault

Consumer broadband consumption in North America reached a milestone in the fourth quarter of 2021 as averages hit 536.3 gigabytes (GB) – surpassing half a terabyte (TB) – according to a new study from OpenVault.

That figure represents an increase of 165% when compared to the average of 203GB per month OpenVault found in its Q4 2017 study.

Click here for a larger version of this image. 
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)

OpenVault believes the half-TB milestone aligns with consumer migrations to faster broadband service tiers. The new high-water mark materializes as 1-Gig service is considered table stakes. It's also as several broadband service providers, including AT&T, Frontier Communications, GCI, Verizon and Ziply Fiber, unleash new multi-gigabit speed tiers.

Based on an aggregation of data points from "millions" of individual broadband subscribers, OpenVault's Broadband Insights Report 4Q21 (registration required) also found that the "power user category," which includes subs who chew up more than 1TB per month, is rising amid a decline of consumers on lower-level speed tiers.

Power users climbing

Broadband subs who consumed 1TB or more per month represented less than 2% of all subs back in 2017, but that figure surged to nearly 16% at the end of 2021, OpenVault found. Additionally, power users who consumed 2TB or more per month represented just 0.12% of subscribers in 2017 but expanded to 2.74% at the end of 2021. Meanwhile, broadband subs who consumed 100 gigabytes or less per month fell from about 50% in 2017 to just 26% by the end of last year, OpenVault said.

The study also found that consumers on speed tiers of 1-Gig or more increased to about 12.2% at the end of 2021. The largest segment of customers (36.9%) were provisioned for speeds in the range of 100 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s, while just 9.4% were on tiers delivering 50 Mbit/s or less. When all of the tiers are rolled up, 65.4% of all subscribers are provisioned for speeds of between 100 Mbit/s and 400 Mbit/s, OpenVault said.

Click here for a larger version of this image. 
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)

As might be expected, average monthly data consumption varied greatly by tier. Customers on tiers of 1-Gig or more consumed more than 1TB of data per month, while those getting speeds in the middle range (200 Mbit/s to 400 Mbit/s) chewed up an average of 630GB per month.

Click here for a larger version of this image.  
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: OVBI Broadband Insights Report 4Q21. Used with permission.)

Speed upgrade targets

OpenVault said data consumption trends suggest that 23.5% of all subscribers getting speeds of 400 Mbit/s or lower are eligible candidates for speed tier upgrades. The company, which is clearly advocating for the kind of usage-based data policies that consumers tend to dislike, further suggests that ISPs can use this kind of data to target those customers with speed upgrade campaigns that can result in higher ARPU (average revenue per user).

"These accelerated trends will challenge network operators to plan accordingly and ensure they are delivering an acceptable customer experience to all their subscribers," OpenVault noted in the report. "Network operators should explore all options, including examining the role of usage-based billing to better manage this onslaught of accelerating data consumption."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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