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unexplained cellular data usage every six hours
  • We have three phones on our account.
  • All three phones show a cellular usage traffic event every six hours, like clockwork to the minute, when Data Utilization is viewed on the Verizon web site.
  • This occurs even during the night when we are sleeping and no apps are actively used.
  • As an experiment, I turned off 'Use Cellular Data' for all applications, but left 'Cellular Data' On, on one of the phones.
    • I reset statistics on that phone.
  • As before, cellular data usage still occurs every six hours when I view the Data Utilization.
  • However, none of the applications show any cellular usage at all (as expected, since they all have Cellular Data turned off).
  • These unexplained data usage events vary in quantity from a few KB up to hundreds of MB, and in the past I have exceeded my limit because of this traffic (to VERIZON's benefit).
  • WIFI assist is off, Notifications are off, Background App Refresh is off, iCloud Drive is off, Photos is off

I have seen other posts reporting this same observation, but I have never seen an explanation.

Is this Apple poaching data from me? 

Verizon clawing a few extra bucks out of me?

Something mundane (probably)?

Labels (1)
Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

If your phones data meter matches your Verizon account each bill period, no one is poaching your data.

What you see is data reporting, which may be in delayed batches (up to 72 hours) at intervals of 3 to 6 hours.

ios and app updates may change how data is reported or used by your phone.  No one but you controls data use.

You can adjust data usage in settings on the phone and within apps.

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

Thank you.

Could you elaborate, or recommend a resource that can explain more fully the following questions:

who is being reported to?

How can I 'control' this data reporting usage which I am paying for, and which often uses hundreds of megabytes in a single burst?

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

You asked....   lol. This was written for ATT, but it applies to all carriers....

You have a meter for data use on your phone.  On iPhone you have to reset the meter each billing period. (Windows and android phones provides automatic billing period metering)

The data meter on your phone is independent of your carrier recording.  It it says you used the data, then you did.  This doesn't rule out a faulty app or faulty phone. 

To see what data your phone used, Open settings, look at data/cellular usage.  Scroll down and note which apps are using the most data.   Anything using your data is likely to also show high battery use. 

Understanding second:

  There is a trend toward blaming the carrier if a customer doesn't understand the data use.  If your phone says it used the data, then it did.  If your phone shows substantially* less usage than is being reported, then take a screen shot for proof and call for tech support.  ( *a hundred mbs more or less is not substantial. )

How it works?

Data reporting is not done in real time.   The actual data use could have been hours, or even days earlier.   Towers often report data back in intervals during non peak hours. 

Towers note when a connection to a particular IMEI/ESN (which is unique to your phone and SIM card) opens, pass to a new tower and closes.  Once it closes, it sends data totals back. 

The connection closes when you leave a tower's area, connect to wifi, turn an app off, turn off your phone.

Your phone and carrier may not record data in the same way due to rounding.  Your phone independently records its data use and should be within a hundred mbs of the totals reported by your carrier towers.  Your carrier makes an effort to include data used in a billing period in that billing period rather than start your next bill period already with a chunk missing.  This often causes the complaint of "inflated use the last day of billing period." 

The analogy I use to explain data use is,  your data plan is like a checking account, your phone is like the checkbook.  Purchases made during the day are not deducted from your checking account at the moment you write the check.  your phone does record the use

Each tower = a point of purchase.  International roaming data can take weeks to be deducted.

The delay in towers reporting back to computers is several hours.  Partner towers take longer. 

Just like your checking account, the data isn't reported back for several hours, often overnight, and then deducted from your data plan.

If you have an android phone, there is an option in settings to provide a warning and a cap.  It has to be set slightly below your cap to be sure not to go over.


We use our phones for business, medical, financial, personal and even questionable uses.  The contents of your phone are personal and private.  Only you can see which apps are used or what websites are visited.  On your bill the carrier can only categorize use.  Example: "Audio" may be music, text to speech, notifications and ringtones. 

  Faulty phone.  Just to get the least likely, but most costly cause of data overage out of the way next; a faulty phone.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it can be a ridiculous amount of data is a very short time.  In some cases, customers have reported no applications open or in use, yet a phone continues to use many GBS of data.  If this happens, don't wait for your carrier to credit your account, or the Calvary to charge to your rescue.   It may be an app you downloaded, try running in safe mode.  A factory data reset may resolve the problem.  Restoring all data may also restore the problem.  Save essential information so it can be synced back to your phone.

If none of this has any effect, the phone must be replaced.  You may see other customers say changing carriers solved the problem, when it was changing phones that really solution.

  A related cause can be an application running amok.   Running in safe mode can determine if it is an app, or the phone itself.  Downloading apps from unknown sources exposes your phone to this risk, so be careful.  I find free music downloaders are problematic.  If you use them, delete the App after you download.

  Android smartphone running version 4.0 or later you can check your data usage and set alerts and limits. Go to Settings and under Wireless & Networks tap on Data usage. You’ll see a table showing your data usage for a specific period of time. You can check the box that says "Set mobile data limit" and then move the black and red lines to set an alert usage amount (so you’ll get a warning when you’re closing in on your limit), and a hard limit (which will prevent you from going over).  The drawbacks are: As above, data is not reported in real time, set your limit slightly below your actual cap and the user can change this limit any time (kids may alter the setting). 

Common causes for an increase in data use

  Switch from an old 3G phone to a brand new 4G LTE device.   If you upgraded to a new phone and suddenly noticed it is using 2-3 times more data, it is not a faulty phone.   The newer, bigger phones use a lot more data to do the same tasks.  Video and images load in HD, tasks can be run faster, so you can do more.  The recommendation is 2 GBS of data for each 4G LTE smartphone, for normal use.

  Kids/Teenagers.   Gotta love them, but they do not always understand what uses data.  Personally, I taught my kids how to control and monitor their own data and hung the threat of turning it off on the account over their heads.  I feel if the child is old enough for a smartphone, he or she is old enough to keep to their allotted data.    As described in the beginning of the article, data takes hours to report back, so your child's phone can reach and pass the limit before the computerized switch gets the message and shuts them off.

Also, in your child's defense, if their room is far from your router, and is not properly set up, it may connect to the superior, cellular connection rather than poor wifi. 

  If a phone is working correctly, it switches to wifi when available.  Some customers are controlling data and battery use by manually turning mobile data and wifi on and off.  This is an unnecessary action if the phone and wifi are working as designed.   It can also backfire horribly if you forget the switch back to wifi at home.  However, if your wifi is not sufficient, you have no choice.

  Social media applications.  This may go hand in hand with Teenagers.  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter all use a lot of data for video and photos.  These applications have settings within the app to limit mobile data by turning video play off. 

YouTube, aka, "data drain extraordinaire" should be wifi only.

And email settings.... Email itself doesn't use a lot of data, but links to photos, video or websites increase use.  Settings are with email application to restrict attachments.

  Operator error.  Your smartphone is a little computer.  They no longer come with paper manuals because the software changes too often.  Please look up and read the online user manual or check out AT&T's online manual for your device.  Updates to software may change your settings, please review them after an update to your phone. 

  Restrict applications in the background.  Path to follow: settings, data usage, select each app individually to restrict.  If your phone has a battery conservation option, it also restricts data use in the background. 

  An application running in the background.  This could be a nasty little surprise on anyone's phone.  I decided to test and see how this could happen.  I opened the app for my security camera and checked on my dogs while I was out.  Rather than logout and close the app correctly, I left it running in the background for 5-6 hours.  Later in the day , after I was home and on wifi for a while, I closed the application properly.  About 3 hours later, the towers all reported back a total of 5 GBS of data used.  My phone correctly reported the data use by the security camera application. 


  Wifi problems fall into 2 categories, (a) faulty wifi antenna in the phone or (b) poor wifi service from your home equipment. 

  1. If the fault is in the phone, it will have problems with many or all wifi.  Either refusing to connect, or dropping constantly.  If this is the problem, a reboot, battery pull, or reset of network settings may be the quick fix.  If not, a factory data reset may resolve the problem.  In some cases the phone must be replaced.
  2. This is the tricky part in today's connected homes, but it may also be the culprit if you have massive overage on apps you insist are only used at home, on wifi.  Streaming devices, computers, smart TVs, tablets, cellphones all divide your incoming bandwidth into smaller and smaller portions.  Distance from the router is also a factor.  If your phone drops wifi, other devices are slow or drop connection, pages load slowly, the problem may be your router, modem, service, or a combination of the three.  Reconfiguring your router may resolve the problem.  This may require a service call, but if you have regular overage charges it's a bargain.  Poor wifi reception may sneak up on you unless you use a wifi only device regularly, which would make a reduction is service noticeable.  The faster and more capable smartphones become, the more intolerant they are of poor internet connections.  Run a speed test direct from your modem, upload, download and latency.   That last one is important.  If the graph looks like an EKG, you have a problem
  3. Trouble shoot with your service provider.  I recommend a dual channel, 2.4 and 5.0 ghz router with extenders if needed.  My personal pick (after several high rated routers failed to deliver) is the Apple AirPort Extreme and or base station.   It is not the only excellent router out there, but it works well for me, and we are not a completely Apple house.


iMessage uses data to send text messages.  It doesn't use a lot, only about 1 kilobyte for a regular text. If you send photo and video with iMessage you are using much more data.   If your kid "talks with thumbs", you might want to turn iMessage to wifi only, or off.

Find out how much data iMessage has used since you last reset data totals, follow this path on your iPhone:  open settings > cellular data > system services > messaging services.

iPhone, iOS wifi assist.   If you have an iPhone running iOS 9 the wifi assist is on by default.  This setting will default your phone to LTE if the LTE signal is stronger than your wifi signal.  Great for performance, but it will really take a chunk out of your data plan.  Best to just turn this off.

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

I think the entire issue could be resolved by allowing users to access the raw data.  This should show the time of activity and the application which generated the activity. 

Your remarks about correlating the phone data meter with the monthly statements is useful, but does not allow for the possibility of software or hardware issues which may generate excessive usage. This excess would be reflected in both the data meter and billing which would be in agreement, although the user is being over-billed.

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

You're killing have exactly that...ON THE PHONE. 

If the phone is faulty, it will still show the faulty use.  I.e. 2 gigs on a weather app all of a sudden, or on twitter when you don't have an account. 

There is a reason computers handle the data, do you have any idea how many pages you usage would be if it were by ISP? 

Your phone is an independent meter of your usage.  It shows which app used how much data.  It is the only real record of use as your data use it PRIVATE.   Check your browser history, check your apps.  Your carrier has no right to know any more than how much data.  Do you really want them to have access when you e-bank?  I don't. 

In only a handful of cases out of hundreds or thousands of complaints in the past few years did a persons phones show less data than the carrier.  Usually once it's explained how to check data use on the phone, they realize they are using the data and for what.  'Timmy used 8 gigs on YouTube etc'. 

  In 4 years of tracking, only once was carrier total off my figure (far short)  and rollover took care of it the next month .  My total was higher by a lot, which was reported at the beginning of the next cycle.  The difference in data has always been in my favor. 

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours
Customer Support

We always encourage you to use any of the tools at your disposal to stay on top of your data usage. In addition to seeing the data directly from your phone, we also offer a data utilization tool on your MyVerizon. This provides categories and not specific names of applications that's going against your plan.


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If my response answered your question please click the "Correct Answer" button under my response. This ensures others can benefit from our conversation. Thanks in advance for your help with this!

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

Please re-read my post.  All I want is access to my PRIVATE raw data.

Sure, 2 GB would stand out.  But a smaller amount of excess usage, repeated frequently, would not. 

And it would correlate with the billing statement, so the usage ON THE PHONE would be the same as the usage in the billing statement. 

And it could push me over my limit, or prompt a friendly message to buy some more data.

Maybe its rare, but I have had experience with over-billing with the old Razor phone, and I won't trust the provider or the hardware again.

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

Your phone connects to the network and records transfers of talk text or data.  What you are asking is the equivalent of tapping the phone call or keeping content of text messages - private.

I will repeat, in all my data tracking, all differences have always been in my favor.  A defect in the phone is not the carriers fault and would still show the amount of data used correctly on the device and the carrier. 

Re: unexplained cellular data usage every six hours

SO, after using the same phone and apps for years all of a sudden 10 days ago at 8:39am my phone decides to start sending data every six hours on nose. It chewed up 13 GB in 10 days. We have never used more than 4. Got charged $15 for an extra GB. While on the phone with Verizon (3 layers of support) a 6 hour window hit and wiped out the 1gb I just got charged for yesterday and I got charged another $15. We have the phone off now until some resolution presents itself.