What's the maximum you would spend each month for mobile data?
A full two-thirds are unwilling to shell out more than $50 a month for a mobile data plan, according to the new report from Parks Associates. Further, a lot of people are in the dark as to just how much data they gobble up.
Half of current smartphone users questioned said they have no idea how much data they use each month.
These findings tell analysts at Parks that carriers face risks as they try to force more subscribers from unlimited plans to tiered, or usage-based, plans.
"U.S. consumers are accustomed to unlimited data use for one fixed price," Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks, said in a statement. "They are reluctantly embracing the capped data plan tiers, but they have high price sensitivity and will rebel against byte-tracking."
Mobile subscribers still on unlimited plans have already complained of throttling, or having their bandwidth reduced, when they reach a certain threshold determined by the carriers. Users typically have no idea if they're approaching the threshold since it's based on how much data they consume in comparison with their fellow subscribers.
Among the four U.S. carriers, only Sprint still offers a true unlimited data plan. Despite confusion earlier this year, the company has insisted that it does not throttle heavy data users. T-Mobile offers so-called unlimited data plans but warns that it will throttle your speed once you pass a certain amount. Verizon Wireless and AT&T restrict you to tiered plans unless you're a long-time customer with a grandfathered unlimited plan. Of course, those unlimited plans are also subject to throttling.
Mobile customers are gobbling up plenty of data. More than 90 percent of the smartphone owners surveyed by Parks have downloaded an average of two apps per month since buying their phones. Across the world, consumers are expected to spend $14 billion on app downloads this year.
Users are also chewing up bandwidth by streaming video, audio, and other hefty content on the go.
Heavy data use creates challenges. Carriers are forced to keep upgrading their networks. At the same time, carriers feel the need to limit or throttle data usage, at the risk of driving away customers.
"Now that 4G networks are rolling out across the globe, operators have to do three things right," Wang said. "Find new revenue sources for their faster and more efficient networks, fend off over-the-top competitors, and manage their networks efficiently, including modifying data plan pricing to align revenue with network cost. None will be easy, but they have to roll up their sleeves and get them done."