Data Planning and Usage

As a mobile tech writer, I have been often asked many things, from the buying of new gadgets to data plan purchasing. Now, I understand that most people have little or no understanding of data consumption. Your consumption habits are tied to several factors—chief among them is your need to consume.

a rough data guide

So do you need a all you can eat buffet or a light snack as I would like to put it? I got asked this by a girlfriend of mine who didn’t quite know what data plan she needed with her new iPad. She had gotten a 3G model and was keen to make full use of it. Now, making full use is subjective, as it depends on her usage patterns.
She told me she likes to watch movies, stream them into the iPad on a regular basis. I then told her that a movie can be between 450mb to 700mb so if she does this regularly, her plan to sign up for a 6GB monthly plan would be exhausted in no time. If you think abou it, there is a reason why many people make use of 3G data to access the Internet. Convenience is one but the real issue is the availability of free WIFI hotspots. If you live in a place where you are more likely to have access to a WIFI hotspot, your 3G data consumption should fall below 200MB a month on average.
If you make use of apps like Voice Actions or Siri, then your data consumption will be much higher. I have done a rough calculation for bear basic use of the Internet sans WIFI access during the month, the figure still comes out to about 500MB of data a month. This is base on a daily average of 15MB a day of data consumption, without the use of YouTube or Music Streaming.
Moderate users often use between 30MB to 35MB a day, making a 1GB monthly plan possible. Now this is without WiFi tethering to other devices.
Tethering, the act of sharing your 3G or 4G connection with other devices, is a data drain. A Facebook page viewed on a PC or notebook is roughly 1MB in size. So if you have constant fresh content, you are liable to exceed your data bandwidth within two weeks.
So before I go, let me share with you a finding on mobile Data Usage from another site.

So, just how much data will you use in a month?

The rate at which you chew up your data will depend on what you use your device for. If you are hoping to use your device to stream videos, music, or movies over a 3G connection on your way to work every day and are constantly connected to the internet without using a WiFi connection you will quickly burn through a 2GB or 5GB data plan. On the other hand, if you are just sending the occasional email or checking the news every now and again, you may find you are using less than 200MB per month.

The type of device you have will more than likely impact the rate of data you use too. People with high-powered devices (such as iPad, iPhone, Android-powered handsets and tablets) designed for surfing the web, streaming videos and making VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls are more likely to eat up low data allowances than those wielding a small-screen without enhanced internet capabilities.

According to US network provider AT&T, 200 megabytes (MB) of data should be enough for you to “send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video” every month via a 3G connection. With 2GB of data you should be able to “send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video” per month.

AT&T believes that around 65 percent of their smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month. 98 percent of their smartphone customers use less than 2GB per month. However, those figures will no doubt change in the future as music and video streaming and VoIP technologies are better integrated and as people start to use their mobile phones or tablet PCs as their primary computing devices.

A February 2010 study by market researcher Rysavy Research showed that the average smartphone user uses around 0.3GB per year (25.6MB per month) in 2010. In six years that figure is expected to reach 6.7GB per year (570MB per month).

Consumer polls on technology blogs such as and show slightly higher data usage figures. 33 percent of the 2,700 DailyTech readers polled used less than 200MB, 20 percent used between 200MB to 500MB, 12 percent used between 500MB and 1GB of data, 8 percent used between 1GB and 2GB, whilst 26 percent of smartphone users polled used more than 2GB of data per month.

9.1 percent of the 1,044 readers polled used less than 50MB, 5.5 percent used less than 100MB, 8.1 percent used less than 200MB, 10.7 percent used less than 500MB, 14.3 percent used less than 1GB, 12.7 percent used less than 2GB, 15.3 percent used less than 5GB and 24.2 percent used in excess of 5GB.


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