March Cellular Data Usage Surges in the U.S. Amid COVID-19 Spread, According to NPD

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Additionally, more mobile users are taking advantage of hotspot connectivity as carriers open allowances

"For many, their phones provide a connection to the outside world – a lifeline so many are yearning for,” stated Brad Akyuz, NPD Connected Intelligence.

According to the latest Mobile Data Consumption Report from NPD Connected Intelligence, cellular data consumption on smartphones in March 2020 was up by 75% year-over-year and 27% month-over-month. This increase in usage was driven primarily by increased time spent on social media applications, using video conferencing platforms, and viewing content via OTT video apps.

These trends coincide with an increase in consumers’ use of the mobile hotspot tethering feature on their smartphones. According to NPD, adoption rate of mobile hotspot usage hit a record 30 percent, up 25 percent year-over-year(1).

“There’s no doubt that mobile phones have been indispensable as most Americans find themselves under shelter-at-home mandates. For many, their phones provide a connection to the outside world – a lifeline so many are yearning for,” stated Brad Akyuz, executive director, industry analyst, NPD Connected Intelligence. “As the networks become increasingly stretched, we’re seeing more Americans utilize mobile hotspots for additional connectivity. Add into the mix that carriers have opened up more hotspot allowances, and we expect the numbers of people adopting hotspot usage on their devices to increase even more in the coming months.”

Video continues to be main driver of data consumption on smartphones, accounting for over 70% of the total data traffic (cellular and Wi-Fi combined). As people are spending more time at home, and – thus – in front of screens, NPD data from the Q1 2020 Data Consumption Report also revealed a noticeable correlation between the size of mobile phone screens and increased usage of video consumption. Users of smartphones with a screen size of 5.5-inches or larger consume 53% more data compared to those users on smartphones with screen sizes of between 4.5- and 5.5-inches.

“Americans have more time to spend on their phones, trying to pass time at home or even standing in lines at grocery stores and wholesale retailers, watching engaging video content from any number of platforms that safely allows for social distancing,” added Akyuz.

(1) Feb. 2020 vs. Feb. 2019


The NPD Group Connected Intelligence Data Consumption report provides a quarterly view of consumer smartphone usage behavior. The report leverages an on-device and VPN-based metering solution ("Smart Meter") to provide a view of actual application and data consumption, allowing customers to view usage across a number of different metrics. More than 2,500 consumers with Android and iOS smartphones opt-in to the SmartMeter panel and are continuously tracked through an app on their devices.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. We have offices in 27 cities worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, travel retail, video games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

About Connected Intelligence
Connected Intelligence provides competitive intelligence and insight into the rapidly evolving consumer’s connected environment. The service focuses on the three core components of the connected market: the device, the broadband access that provides the connectivity, and the content that drives consumer behavior. These three pillars of the connected ecosystem are analyzed through a comprehensive review of what is available, adopted, and consumed by the customer, as well as reviewing how the market will evolve and what the various vendors can do to best position themselves in this evolving market. For more information:

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Lauren Leetun, APR
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