Goodness me. Apparently, 53.5% of UK consumers questioned by the broadband comparisons website Broadband Genie
answered 'Don't know' to the question, 'How many GBs of mobile broadband do you use per month?'
To me, this is somewhat surprising – if only because the corollary of this is that 46.5% of Brits claim that they do know. I would venture to suggest that, rather than plump for the ‘Don’t know’ option, some correspondents have ticked an alternative box which makes them look rather more authoritative on the question than is actually the case.
After all – what is a Gigabyte? Or a Megabyte or kilobyte, for that matter? They are not friendly, easily quantifiable measures like a half pound of meat, or a pint of milk. We are used to listening to music for half an hour, or an hour; we don’t listen to it for 15 megabytes. Ditto Internet surfing, playing online games, watching TV: we assess whether we have time to perform a leisure activity, not whether we have enough data.
Thus, knowledge of Gigabyte usage is not foremost in most people’s minds: indeed, at least one UK operator clearly needs a refresher course on the subject, if its estimates of how much data is taken up by a full-track download is anything to go by.
Anyway, that’s by the by. The other point made by Broadband Genie was that while many of the headlines concerning consumer confusion over data usage are related to "bill shock" and the awful realisation that you've spent fifteen hundred quid while streaming Eastenders over your phone while on the Costa de Sol, this lack understanding also leads many mobile customers to use far less data than their bundle permits. Take it away Chris Marling, editor of Broadband Genie:
"However, the flip side of the coin hides the real story - people using too little data, not too much: the same consumer confusion sees many customers paying too much for their mobile broadband data tariff. Instead of a few people facing bills in their thousands, we're talking about thousands of customers who could probably halve their mobile internet bill and see no difference in their online usage."
Quite possibly; but this begs the question, what is the best means of going about this? Presumably it means the introduction of further tiers in data bundles, which would probably lead to even more confusion, especially of customers if the aforementioned UK operator (which shall remain nameless) are relying on that operator’s estimations of how much data a full-track typically consumes.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution: although can I propose, as a possible option, some form of icon/information bar on the home page illustrating the extent of a consumer’s data that has already been used up. It won’t tell you what a Megabyte is, but at least it will tell you how many you have left…