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Do I need mobile phone data during lockdown?

Do I need mobile phone data during lockdown?
Image source: Getty Image

With much of the UK in lockdown once again, chances are you’re at home more than usual. And if you’re using less mobile phone data, you might wonder if it’s worth cancelling your contract for a few months. But is it really a good idea to give up your mobile data during lockdown? Let’s take a look. 

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Mobile phone data usage during lockdown

Most of us use WiFi at home, which means there’s less need for mobile data. Here’s a snapshot of how our habits have changed during the pandemic: 

  • It’s true that data usage plunged during the spring lockdown. For example, Sky Mobile customers built up over 5.4 million GB of unused data.
  • Many mobile users are rolling over unused data if their contracts allow it. 
  • The situation hasn’t changed much since the spring – collectively, we’ve paid over £165 million for data we haven’t used, and this figure is still rising.

So what does this all mean? Should you cancel your mobile phone data right now? Well, first, it depends on the type of contract you have. 

Your phone contract

Some contracts are easier to change or terminate than others. Let’s break down what we mean. 

Monthly contracts

These typically last for two to three years. You pick a package (for example, unlimited texts and minutes, and 5GB data per month) and you can sometimes ‘roll over’ unused data to the next month. Generally, you can’t terminate these contracts early without incurring fees, but you may be able to downgrade your package.

‘Rolling’ contracts

These contracts last until you cancel them. If you find a cheaper or better tariff for your needs elsewhere, you only need to give the provider 30 days’ notice to cancel them. 

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If you’re on a rolling contract, it’s much easier to switch to a lower tariff than if you’re in a monthly contract.

Cancelling your contract: pros and cons

So, should you cancel your mobile phone data during the coronavirus lockdown? Here are some pros and cons to help you make a decision. 


  • It’s an easy way to save money during lockdown. 
  • If you have a rolling contract, you only need to give a month’s notice to move to a lower tariff. 
  • If your provider lets you downgrade your data tariff rather than cancelling completely, you shouldn’t face any cancellation fees. 
  • It’s often quite simple to upgrade your data tariff again once you’re ready. It all depends on your provider, though.


  • You might incur cancellation fees if you decide to end your mobile phone data contract early. 
  • Once life gets more ‘normal’, you’ll need to restart your contract. Again, you might incur fees for this.  
  • You can’t use apps like the NHS Test and Trace when you do go out, because it can’t track your movements. This defeats the purpose of the app and makes it harder to track coronavirus.
  • It’s not just the NHS app – if you use fitness apps outside, they rely on mobile data. So if you can cancel your contract, you can’t log your runs anymore. 


My take on this? I wouldn’t recommend cancelling your mobile phone data contract right away. Instead, think about switching to a cheaper tariff for a few months.

If you’re still under contract, you won’t incur any cancellation fees, but you can switch back to a higher data tariff once you’re out and about more. If you’re in a rolling contract, it probably makes sense to switch to a lower tariff for the next month or so. 

Are you near the end of your fixed term mobile contract? It might be a good idea to choose a rolling contract going forward. It’s easier to switch tariffs as your needs change, and it’s simple to end the contract and stop using your phone if you can’t afford the monthly repayments anymore. 

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