Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Mobile Data Usage

How much data will I use?

It is easy to quantify certain things – a 5MB MP3 download will use 5MB of data, a 2MB Word document will use 2MB of data – but many internet-related tasks and activities use data at a rate that is more difficult to quantify.

Web pages can vary from only a few KB of data (1024KB = 1MB) to well over 1MB and so it is difficult to accurately predict how much data you may use in an hour of surfing the net – it will depend largely on the sites you visit, how many pages you visit, the content of those pages etc. Pages with embedded video or a large number of images will transfer significantly more data than pages which are largely text.

According to the various mobile broadband providers the figures vary pretty wildly and so our figures represent an average of their available data. To illustrate the differences we shall take e-mail as an example – Orange claims that 100 e-mails without an attachment will use approximately 1 MB of mobile data, 3 estimate that this would use approximately 2.4 MB, Vodafone reckon on 6MB and Virgin Media suggest closer to 9MB – a pretty huge variation.

Media such as audio and particularly video will require considerably more data transfer to take place than web pages or instant messaging your friends – a typical 4 minute MP3 track will require around 4-8 MB depending on quality, while video requires far more – downloading an entire film could use the best part of 1 GB – in some cases this might be your entire monthly allowance! Using applications such as Spotify to stream high-quality audio on the move will also eat into your data bundle at a significant rate.

The table below contains some indications of likely data transfer for common internet-related tasks:

Activity Typical Data Usage
Instant Messaging – MSN, Yahoo, Skype etc approx 1.5MB/hr
100 e-mails without attachments approx 5MB
Downloading a 4 minute MP3 music track 4-8MB each
E-mailing a high resolution image from a digital camera 2-10MB each
Downloading a full movie in AVI format approx 700MB
Watching streaming media – YouTube, BBC etc. approx 2MB/min
Streaming music via Spotify 1.2MB – 2.4MB/min
Web browsing approx 5MB/hr

The best advice is to tread carefully initially and monitor your data usage on your device and if possible through your network operator – most have apps or a web address for doing this. Get an idea of how your typical usage translates to monthly data usage and either adapt your usage to suit your pocket or adapt your SIM only data plan to suit your needs.

Further information

Just in case you were wondering what all these bits, bytes and the like actually represent:

1 bit = a binary digit – the smallest unit of data on a computer – it is either a zero or a one.
8 bits = 1 byte
1 kilobyte (KB) = 1024 bytes
1 megabyte (MB) = 1024 kilobytes (1,048,576 bytes)
1 gigabyte (GB) = 1024 megabytes (1,073,741,824 bytes)
1 terabyte (TB) = 1024 gigabytes (1,099,511,627,776 bytes)