Mobile Internet: How Much Data is 500MB or 1GB? Download Limits Explained

April 2nd, 2014

Mobile phone contracts often have a limit on how much you can download. In the real world, what can you actually do with 500MB or 1GB?

Smartphones Consume DataWhen using a smartphone, you’ll need to have a suitable tariff with a large enough data allowance.

Almost all of the functionality on a modern smartphone requires data to work. Data is consumed when browsing the internet, sending instant messages, reading e-mails, watching YouTube videos, updating Facebook and Twitter and calling friends over Skype. Every activity consumes data at a different rate.

In the UK, there’s a wide range of tariffs with varying download limits. Most contracts give you around 1GB of data per month but there’s a large variation depending on the network you choose. On lower-cost tariffs, you’ll often get 500MB per month. If you’re willing to pay more, you might get an allowance of up to 20GB per month. There’s also a network offering all-you-can-eat data.

In this article, we explain the real-world meaning of mobile download limits. We’ll ask what 500MB and 1GB of data actually correspond to in real life. We’ll also outline figures for average data consumption and we’ll explain how to measure your current data usage. Finally, we’ll provide a few tips on how to choose the right data allowance.

How much data is included on my mobile contract?

If you’re choosing a tariff for your smartphone, the chances are it’ll come with 1GB of data or more every month. For entry-level tariffs, you might have as little as 250MB or 500MB of data. This can be suitable for occasional and light users. On higher-end tariffs, you can get as much as 20GB of data every month. There’s also the option of all-you-can-eat data on Three (unlimited downloads).

The following table show typical data allowances offered by UK mobile networks:

Network Typical Download Allowance Other Tariffs
EE 4GB 4G tariffs: Between 500MB and 20GB
giffgaff 1GB £7.50 Goodybag: 250MB
£10 Goodybag
: 1GB
£12+ Goodybags: Unlimited
4G Goodybags: 500MB or 2GB
Gigabags: 500MB, 1GB or 3GB
O2 2GB O2 Refresh: Between 500MB and 8GB
Tesco Mobile 500MB Pay Monthly: Up to 8GB
Three 1GB Pay Monthly: 2GB or Unlimited
Vodafone 1GB 3G Plans: Up to 4GB
4G Plans: Up to 13GB

As the amount of included data depends on your tariff, we strongly recommend verifying details with your network via the following links:

Relationship between KB, MB and GB

data-binaryThere are 1,000 kilobytes (KB) in 1 megabyte (MB) and 1,000 megabytes in 1 gigabyte (GB).

This means if you see a tariff advertising 500MB of data per month, you can only download half as much as you can on a 1GB per month tariff (500MB = 0.5GB).

You may occasional come across terms such as terabyte and mebibyte. These terms are rarely used within the mobile industry but Wikipedia has a good explanation in case you ever come across them.

What can I do with 500MB or 1GB of data?

It’s hard to give an exact figure. For instance, web pages differ substantially in size. Some websites are incredibly simple (mainly text with a few images) whilst others are much complex (with photos and videos embedded which increases data consumption). In order to produce the table below, we’ve taken a few averages. It should provide a rough guide on what you’re able to do with 500MB or 1GB.

500MB corresponds to… 1GB corresponds to…
Accessing Web Pages 900 pages 1,800 pages
Basic e-mail/instant message 150,000 350,000
Rich e-mail/IM (with attachments) 1,000 2,000
Downloading/streaming music 100 songs 200 songs
Downloading/streaming video 1 hour 2 hours
Skype voice call 15 hours 30 hours
Skype video call 2 hours 4 hours
Listening to online radio 8 hours 16 hours
Downloading/updating apps 40 apps 75 apps

Approximate figures for what you’re able to do with 500MB or 1GB of data. See the table below for a list of assumptions.

Please note that we’ve listed what 500MB and 1GB correspond to: this isn’t a shopping list of what you can download with a 500MB or 1GB allowance. In other words, viewing 900 web pages, watching 1 hour of video or downloading 40 apps would use up the entirety of a 500MB allowance (a 500MB allowance does not allow you to do all of them in the same month). Realistically, you’ll do a bit of everything so each activity would contribute towards your total data usage.

How much data does the average user require?

We would typically recommend choosing a tariff with at least 2GB of data per month. This is based upon statistics for average data consumption and also allows for some data usage increase over the next 24 months.

In July 2012, Three reported that the average customer used 1.1GB per month. More recently, the CEO of EE announced in a speech that average data consumption was 1.4GB per month (statistics from February 2014). Based on these figures, 2GB per month should be ample for most users. For heavy smartphone users, consider an even larger allowance: perhaps in the region of 4-5GB per month.

At present, we’d recommend EE for their wide range of generous data allowances. Compared to other networks, you’ll often get a lot more data for the same price (e.g. twice as much data for the same monthly price as offered on rival networks).

Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S5 with 4GB Data
£42.99/month plus £19.99 upfront (Recommended Deal)

  • Unlimited Minutes
  • Unlimited Texts
  • 4GB of Data (Ideal for average & heavy users)
  • Double Speed 4G
  • Use Your Minutes & Texts in the EU

View Deal on EE →

Also available: Sony Xperia Z2 (£59.99 upfront) and HTC One M8 (£29.99 upfront).

Where can I get a smartphone and how much data would it come with?

All of the major networks offer tariffs which are suitable for use with a smartphone. You can either choose a tariff which comes with a smartphone or you can choose an airtime-only tariff (a SIM-only tariff).

Select a tariff for more information and to see which phones are available:
EE giffgaff O2 Three Vodafone

(500MB – 20GB)

(250MB – Unlimited)

(250MB – 8GB)

(1GB – Unlimited)

(250MB – 13GB)

Other Popular Networks: Talkmobile (100MB – 1GB), Tesco Mobile (100MB – 3GB), TPO (50MB – Unlimited)

How do different activities contribute to data consumption?

iPhone Apps

Almost all activities on a smartphone will consume data.

Almost all activities on a modern smartphone will consume data – the main exceptions being making a phone call and sending a text message.

Activities consuming data include: browsing the web, reading and sending e-mails, browsing Facebook and Twitter, sharing photos, updating your status, downloading applications, downloading music, listening to online radio and watching videos on YouTube. Instant messaging and voice over IP apps (Skype, WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook Messenger, etc) also consume data when in use.

Your phone will also consume data in the background when you’re not using it. For example, your e-mail application automatically checks for messages periodically throughout the day. Also, the weather widget on your home screen updates itself automatically by downloading the latest forecast from the internet. Your phone could also be downloading application updates automatically in the background. When choosing a data tariff, you should always allow extra for background data usage.

Table: Rates of Data Consumption

The following table gives a rough guide on how different activities contribute to data consumption:

Mobile Data - Messaging Basic E-mail or Instant Message (e.g. Gmail, WhatsApp)
0.003MB per message (3KB, no attachments)
Mobile Data - Rich Email Rich E-mail or Instant Message (with attachment)
0.5MB per message (500KB)
Mobile Data - Browsing Web Browsing
0.6MB per web page (600KB), approximately 35MB per hour of web surfing
Mobile Data - Music Downloading or Streaming Music (e.g. MP3 files, Spotify)
  5MB per song
Mobile Data - Apps Downloading or Updating Apps
  13MB per app
Mobile Data - Skype Voice Skype Voice Call
  35MB per hour
Mobile Data - Online Radio Listening to Online Radio
60MB per hour
Mobile Data - Skype Video Skype Video Call
240MB per hour
Mobile Data - Online Video Downloading or Streaming Online Video (e.g. YouTube, iPlayer)
500MB per hour

Table showing how different activities contribute to data consumption. See the article footnotes for assumptions and calculations.

Data Calculator: Choose Your New Network

If you’re still in any doubt, choose the network you’re planning to join for an interactive data calculation tool:

EE Data Calculator → O2 Data Calculator →
Three Data Calculator → Vodafone Data Calculator →

How do I find out how much data I currently use?

Android 4 Data Usage Monitor

Android handsets include a ‘Data Usage Monitor’.

There’s two ways to find out how much data you’re currently using: either ask your network or find out from your smartphone’s data usage monitor. In general, the most reliable figure will come from your mobile network. The easiest way to get hold of these stats is to log in to your mobile network’s website:

  • EE (My EE, includes Orange and T-Mobile customers)
  • O2 (My O2)
  • Three (My 3Account)
  • Vodafone (My Vodafone)

There may also be an app from your network: it’ll often show how much data you’ve used. Compared to the online version, the application can often be more convenient.

The second method of measuring data consumption is through your smartphone’s data usage monitor. It’s available on most Android handsets (including Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, Sony Xperia and LG handsets). Within the Settings app, choose the Data Usage option.

The data usage measured by your phone may differ slightly from your network operator’s measurement. Your charges will be based upon your network operator’s measurement. For this reason, we normally recommend consulting your network operator.

Note: If you’re buying a new phone, your current data consumption may not be a good indicator of how much data you’ll use in the future. Newer handsets often have more advanced functionality so you should expect data consumption to increase after the upgrade.

How can I reduce my data consumption?

If you’re running out of data, you can reduce your data consumption by following these tips:

Data transferred over wi-fi does not count towards your download limit.

Data transferred over wi-fi doesn’t count towards your mobile download limit.

  • Use Wi-Fi whenever you’re at home. Whenever you’re in range of a wi-fi internet connection, connecting to it will help to reduce your mobile data consumption. As your data will be routed over wi-fi, you’ll save precious mobile data for when you actually need it. You can often find free wi-fi internet at coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Avoid using bandwidth-intensive apps. If you’re not connected to a wi-fi network, refrain from streaming music and video from the internet. Applications such as Spotify, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, NetFlix and TVCatchup will very quickly exhaust your download allowance. You should also avoid tethering and using voice-over-IP or file sharing applications.
  • Disable automatic application updates. Application updates can use up a large proportion of your monthly download allowance. If you receive 10 application updates per month, this would use around 130MB. Within Google Play (Android), press the menu button followed by Settings. For the automatic update setting, either choose “Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only” or “Do not auto-update apps”.
  • Use bandwidth saving apps. Applications such as Onavo and Opera Mobile can reduce your data consumption. They do this by compressing data before it is transferred to you over the network.
  • Disable bandwidth-hungry apps. On Android, it’s possible to see how much data each app is consuming. To do this, navigate to Settings > Data Usage. Consider removing bandwidth-heavy apps. Alternatively, restrict their ability to use background data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does data transferred over wi-fi count towards the monthly download limit?

No: your mobile network operator will only count data transferred over the mobile network. When using wi-fi, data bypasses your mobile network entirely. As such, it won’t be counted towards your download limit. To better preserve your mobile download allowance, it’s always a good idea to use wi-fi at home. This will save some of your allowance to be used later when away from the home. Wi-fi can also give a more reliable experience for data-intensive apps (e.g. listening to online radio, making a Skype video call or watching TV online).

How much data is used by tethering or portable hotspot?

TetheringTethering or “portable hotspot” refers to the process of sharing your phone’s mobile internet connection with other devices. It’s often used to connect devices such as a tablet or laptop.

When tethering, any data consumed on your tablet or laptop will also count towards your mobile download limit. The figures given in the table above should still be broadly accurate when using other devices (simply include all of the content accessed from a tethered device). As an extra point, please bear in mind that tablet and laptop users more often use data-intensive apps (you might be watching more videos on your laptop). Also, keep an eye out for automatic updates on your PC: they can quickly use up large amounts of data. Consider disabling automatic updates before tethering from your phone.

To monitor data consumption on a tethered PC, we recommend using the free tbbMeter app (Windows only). For Mac and Linux computers, you can use the free BitMeter OS.

Does listening to radio count towards my download allowance?

iPlayer Radio

Yes, but only if the radio station was received over the internet. If you’re listening to radio through an app or through the browser, it’s likely to have been received over the internet. A 500MB allowance will allow you to listen to 8 hours of online radio.

To listen to radio without consuming data, it’s sometimes possible to tune in to a FM broadcast. As FM radio is received over public airwaves, listening in will not count towards your download allowance. Unfortunately, many new smartphones lack support for a FM radio tuner (neither the iPhone 5s or Galaxy S5 support FM radio).

Can I use my download allowance abroad?

In general, your download allowance can only be used within the UK. If you’re using a smartphone abroad, there may be extra charges for connecting to the internet. Data roaming charges will depend on the network and also the country you’re visiting. In some cases, you can expect to pay up to £10/MB. To reduce the costs of using data abroad, consider taking advantage of one of the following deals:


EE Euro Roaming Data Add-On – 100MB Of Data in Europe (£3/day)

Within Europe, EE customers can use up to 100MB of data for £3/day. It’s available to customers on Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go: simply register for a Euro Roaming Data Add-On.


O2 Travel – 15MB of Data in Europe (£1.99/day)

For an extra £1.99/day, O2 will offer 15MB of data throughout Europe. It’s available to both Pay Monthly and Pay & Go customers. Simply opt in for the O2 Travel offer.


Three Feel At Home – Use Your Data Allowance in USA, Italy & 9 Other Countries (Free)

With the Feel At Home offer, customers of Three can use their UK allowance in eleven other countries at no extra charge (one caveat: all-you-can-eat data plans are capped at 25GB/month). See the Three website or read our review of the Feel At Home offering.


Three Euro Internet Pass – Unlimited Data in Europe (£5/day)

Three customers can opt-in to the £5/day Euro Internet Pass. It gives you unlimited internet in most European countries.


Vodafone EuroTraveller – Use Your Data Allowance in Europe (£3/day)

For £3/day, Vodafone Pay Monthly customers can use their UK allowances when travelling in Europe. This includes the data allowance on your contract. See the Vodafone website for more information.

More Information

For more information, please select the network you’d like to join:

Select a tariff for more information and to see which phones are available:
EE giffgaff O2 Three Vodafone

(500MB – 20GB)

(250MB – Unlimited)

(250MB – 8GB)

(1GB – Unlimited)

(250MB – 13GB)

Other Popular Networks: Talkmobile (100MB – 1GB), Tesco Mobile (100MB – 3GB), TPO (50MB – Unlimited)

Assumptions Made. Web Browsing: The average mobile web page is 558KB (as of February 2014, rounded to 600KB in the table above). Apps: The average app is 13MB in size (based on a sample of the 20 most popular Android apps). Skype Voice Call: Our testing found a mobile voice call to consume 0.55MB/minute (70kbps). Skype Video Call: Our testing found a video call to use 4MB/minute (500kbps). Online Radio: Assumes a bitrate of 128kbps. Online Video: Data consumption is between 300MB and 700MB per hour (depends on the service and the quality of video). We’ve used an average of 500MB per hour.


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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 303 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Roger Burt said:

    I have just bought a Garmin Satnav which links to my smartphone with an app called Smartphone Link. This allows live traffic updates, weather etc. Obviously it needs to connect to the internet but I’m not sure how much data it uses. I’d only be using it infrequently.

    I spoke to a Virgin Media rep who told me I’d need unlimited data (expensive tarrif) whereas someone else told me it uses very little data.

    Does anyone have any advice or information on this?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Roger,
      Thanks for your comment! My feeling is that a Garmin Satnav will use very little data – it’s only downloading information related to traffic and weather. At most, it’ll only use a couple of megabytes so you don’t need to have an unlimited data tariff.
      As a rule of thumb, most apps will use small amounts of data. Large data consumption only comes when downloading multimedia e.g. photos, videos, music, games, etc.
      Hope this helps!

  2. Rowena said:

    Really useful – thanks Ken!

  3. Bobby said:

    Hi. I just bought an iphone 4. It came with 500MB. All I do is watch videos and upload photos to Facebook. I rarely use the internet. Maybe 15mins a month. How many minutes can I stay on Youtube just watching videos at once?

  4. Heather said:

    Can I stay long onto facebook at all time? or will it run my MBs up? I only have 250

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Heather,
      You can stay logged in to Facebook all the time without any data being consumed. Data will only be used when you open the Facebook website and browse through people’s profiles.
      Hope this helps!

  5. Ely Jane said:

    Thank you for such a clear and concise article. I now understand exactly what the adverts are saying. Now I can make an informed decision about which new phone to buy.


  6. Andy said:

    Hi Ken,
    this is brilliant and very informative,thanks for sharing your knowledge with us,

  7. Alok said:

    Hi Mr Ken,
    Thanks for all the information useful to smartphone user.
    I have recently bought a htc one smart phone. I connect my laptop using the smartphone number to viber to make calls through my laptop. If I make a call using viber through my laptop from home will use any of my data allowances.
    Please respond.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alok,

      Thanks for your comment. If you’re tethering via your smartphone (e.g. via wi-fi hotspot or a USB cable) then use of Viber will count towards your download limit. You can avoid this by connecting your laptop to a different wi-fi network (e.g. your home network, a work network, coffee shop network, etc).

      Hope this helps!


  8. Malcolm said:

    Hi Ken

    Thanks for this great, informative and very helpful article. I currently have a PAYG mobile with Virgin Mobile and am looking at going for their ZTE Blade 3 phone on a monthly contract at £13 per month which includes 500MB of data but was worried about going over the limit (Virgin do let you know when you approach your limit). Having read your article, using the phone at the Virgin Broadband service through the router at home would be a good way forward, leaving the phones own connection for when away from home. How easy is it to set a phone up to work on both? And is it easy to remove automatic checking / updating to save usage?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Malcolm,

      Thanks for getting in touch. It’s very easy to get your ZTE Blade 3 to use the home broadband connection. As long as you have a wi-fi network set up at home, simply enter the details of the wi-fi network and save it on your new phone. You can do this through the Settings > Wi-Fi menu. Make sure wi-fi is toggled to the “On” position and then tap on the relevant network and enter your wi-fi passcode. Providing you leave the wi-fi turned on, your phone will automatically connect to home broadband whenever it’s available.

      With regards to your applications, open Play Store from the main menu. Tap on the Menu button followed by Settings. Make sure the “Auto-update apps” setting is either set to “Do not auto-update” or “Auto-update over Wi-Fi only”. This ensures your data allowance is preserved for other things.

      Hope this helps!


      1. Malcolm replied:

        Thanks Ken for your speedy and helpful reply. When the phone arrives will sort it out


  9. Matt said:

    That was a great easy to follow article and helped me understand quite a bit about download limits and where Wifi can help. Thanks very much.

  10. Steph C said:

    Most interesting article, many thanks. Can you confirm that I could, if I purchase an iphone 4, tether to my iPad 2 when in Europe and in Australia. Or do I have to purchase a SIM card for data in the relevant countries. It’s not always convenient to locate a WiFi Hotspot when travelling. Also do Apple permit the use of a ‘foreign’ SIM card to be used in their phones.
    Thanks for any information you can provide.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Steph,

      You can tether your iPad 2 to an iPhone 4 as long as your network provider has enabled it for your phone. I’d recommend against using your UK SIM card – the data costs will probably be quite high. To reduce the cost, try one of these low cost SIMs for browsing in Europe – alternatively buy a SIM card locally in the country you’re visiting. A foreign SIM card can be used but you’ll need to unlock your iPhone. There’s more details here.

      Hope this helps!


  11. Mike said:

    Very informative. Have just bought my first smartphone (PAYG) and have kept it on WiFi only for data. I don’t make many phone calls but use WiFi hotspots a lot. There is not always a convenient hotspot however. I have now opted in to Vodafone’s Text and Web. I did wonder what 500 MB actually represented but you article has explained it nicely. Many thanks

  12. Michael McGraw said:

    Dear Ken found your article interesting and informative. Can you, however, shed any light on why I am incurring “multimedia” charges on my Samsung S2 on Panther 26 with Orange even though ,this month, I have deliberating not used the internet through my mobile phone?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your message. My guess is that these are not data charges – perhaps they’re MMS or picture message charges. On the Orange Panther tariff, MMS messages are charged at 30.6p per message. If you’ve been sending picture messages, this will explain the charge you’re seeing on the bill. If you haven’t, it’s still possible some of your text messages were converted to MMS before they were sent. The Galaxy S2 is prone to do this – when a message goes over a certain length (usually the equivalent of 3 SMS messages), the SMS will be converted into an MMS. You can avoid this by looking out for the “Converting to multimedia message” notification when writing your message.

      Hope this helps,


  13. Loring said:

    We’re planning a trip to the UK (from the US) later this month and I’ve had a hard time finding out about tethering in the UK. Your explanation of the rules, who and how, is very clear and useful. In the US, the providers charge extra to use the hotspot function, meaning you pay twice for the same data package and are forced to buy more than any reasonable person would ever use. In addition, they have made the use of third party tethering apps difficult. A ruling last year said Verizon can no longer block the tethering apps, (like PDANet) but there is an uneasy peace. :-)

    Your various articles on mobile subjects in general and in the UK in particular have been a great help. THNX


  14. Mella Beaumont said:

    This is really useful information. Does anyone do the same for Australian smart phones?????

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mella,

      Greetings from the UK! :-) I’m afraid I don’t know of any Australian sites, though the information above about what 500MB/1GB correspond to should be the same everywhere. You can apply this information to your cellphone plans in Australia (multiply/divide the figures as required).



  15. michael said:

    Helpful stuff, thanks

  16. Grace Dilley said:

    Thank you so much. This is information much needed and easy to understand.

  17. it expert said:

    your information is incorrect. 1024 kilobytes make a megabyte, & 1024 of those make a gigabyte.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for the comment! According to the IEC definition, a megabyte is 1000 kilobytes whereas a mebibyte is 1024 kilobytes. See for more information.

      Unfortunately, usage of 1000 and 1024 is inconsistent within the industry and many people use a megabyte to mean 1024 kilobytes. For the purposes of mobile data, I use the IEC/ISO definition of 1 megabyte = 1000 kilobytes and 1 gigabyte = 1000 megabytes. The reason being that it's better to err on the side of caution and to choose the smaller definition. This should reduce the probability of exceeding your download limit (however your network operator chooses to define it). In practice though, it's probably an academic argument as the probability of data usage being exactly between 1000MB and 1024MB in a given month is quite small.

      Many thanks,


  18. james braselton said:

    hi there i had 2 gb on at&t up too 15 gb at&t offers up too 50 gb per month if you want too pay a premium

  19. Paul williams said:

    Thanks, this article was very informative and helpful, in plain speaking terminology, probably saved me a packet, just received a new phone and did not realise all the additional costs, download caps etc.

  20. GuessWho said:

    There are 1,000 kilobytes (KB) in 1 megabyte (MB) and 1,000 megabytes in 1 gigabyte (GB). This is not true there are actually There are 1,024 kilobytes (KB) in 1 megabyte (MB) and 1,024 megabytes in 1 gigabyte (GB).

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      The SI definition is to have 1000KB in 1MB and 1000MB in 1GB. There are binary prefixes for the 1024 definition – see although you’re right in that most people don’t follow this. In terms of data allowances, I think it’s better to use the lower definition just to be safe.


  21. Elv said:

    I’m on o2. MMS messaging.. Does it get subtracted from my date allowance. Your site is ace.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Elv,

      As far as I know, MMS messages do not get subtracted from your data allowance. However, you will need a data connection in order to send a MMS message.


  22. Annie B said:

    Thanks so much for your straightforward explanations. Soooo helpful. I feel much better equipped tomake the right tariff decision for my needs..

    Annie B

  23. Samantha said:

    There are not 1000kb in a mb there are 1024 and there are1024mb in a gb. Computers work in binary which is powers of 2. 1000 is not a power of 2 which is why it is 1024. This is also why typical memorys for phones are 8,16,32 and 64 – they are powers of 2. Otherwise this website is very helpful ;-)

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks for the heads up Samantha! Have a look at this webpage – it should clarify the 1000 vs 1024 argument:


  24. S M said:

    Ditto – thanks for clear and concise explanations

  25. Sue said:

    Brilliant clear information. I am just about to get my first smartphone and was going to go for the Full Monty with T-Mobile. I am currently with Orange. Orange has now offered me 900 mins, unlimited text & 1GB data for £26 to retain me as a customer. Until I read your article I was unsure if 1GB was enough for me………….it definitely will be. Thanks

  26. Brandon said:

    This information has been a great help. Thank you!!

  27. Claire said:

    Very helpful!

  28. Ralph said:

    Thank you… so Helpful for a new smartphone owner like me… Great explanation and love the chart…!!! God bless you…

  29. Tom said:

    "Unlimited" doen't mean unlimited.

    Orange has a limit for "UNLIMITED" calls with Magic Numbers for 3000 min. per month, and some of my friends mentioned, that "Unlimited" internet has a limit of 3 GB per month.
    It is good to ask what exactly "unlimited" means to avoid some surprise.

  30. Aaron said:

    Love this article as it helped me, But you need to update Vodafone now, I have 2G internet and free tethering with my package

  31. sarah said:

    What an excellent article! Thank you very much for the information.

  32. Colin lyne said:

    Well done, this answered exactly what i wanted to know. Thank you.

  33. A Rowe said:

    Fantastic guide and made this subject very easy to understand. Thank you.

  34. Jim said:

    Thanks for the reply Ken, really appreciate it! Great site!

  35. Jim said:

    Hello Ken, great article! Was very confused about all this for a while, but it's now very clear, thanks!
    BUT (there's always a but) I'm wondering about apps, in particular Viber. You listed skype voice calls as being quite intensive on the limit, with about 30hours per month. Is it any different for Viber? Sorry if this is a silly question!!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jim,

      The figures listed for Skype should be fairly representative for other VoIP applications such as Viber! Bear in mind these figures are rough however: it depends on things such as the quality of reception and the bitrate of your phone call.

      Hope this helps,


  36. michael H said:

    Thanks Ken, it is really helpful. after reading your article, I become confident to decide.
    thanks alot

  37. betha said:

    say i had the twitter app logged on and in use alot would that use/effect my data allowance?

  38. richard said:

    What a great article! Very useful thanks very much

  39. kat said:

    Thanks I'm such a techno phobe! Your site is really imformative and you have been really helpful in responding so quicky. A huge thank you and please keep this information site going!

  40. kat said:

    I have just got a Samsung Galaxy 11 and have broadband is it just a case of switchinbg the wi-fi on and then does all downloading and internet usage go through the wi fi and not the internet provider? I'm a bit confused with how it works.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kat,

      Yep! When you're connected to a wi-fi network (there will be an indicator in the notification bar at the top), all downloading and internet usage will go via wi-fi rather than your mobile internet connection.

      Hope this helps!


  41. Artfulbadger said:

    I have a question I can't find answered anywhere. Next week (5 and 6 June, 2012), we want to broadcast a live event for 24 hours via the Livestream website. We did this last year for 12 hours and it was brilliant. We did that one from our house, over our own broadband with a dinky webcam. This year we are doing the event from a public place where there is no internet available, so we are considering a dongle. However, we can't work out how much MB's this will use and we do not want to pay a lot. We only want the dongle for one day, so were considering a one-month plan, but the usages they offer seem so low.

    Any suggestions (rather quickly!) what we can do? Thanks!!!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      It very much depends on the bitrate that you choose to broadcast with! My recommendation is to download a bandwidth metering programme for your PC (e.g. tbbMeter) and then doing a test run for 15-20 minutes. Multiply this up to find out the amount of data that it'll consume. As a rough guide, you could use the figure for Skype video calls in this article, though this isn't reliable as it'll be substantially more if you're doing HD video streaming.

      Hope this helps,


  42. SlightlyStressedMum said:

    Thanks for a fantastic website. Very straightforward, understandable and informative. My teenage son has just discovered the wonders of Skype and I was concerned about the cost of it eating away at our internet usage. I didn't understand how it all worked until I viewed your site. What an education! Thank you so much for putting my mind at rest.

  43. lyufghbcv said:

    what is the best phone make. i think blackberry, but they are all too expense, what is the best and cheapest smartphone manufacture

  44. simon said:

    why dont mobile companies charge internet usage by the minute? this would be far easier to keep tabs of your usage? surely there would be no additional cost to them, after all connecting to the internet is just a phone connection! If i make a voice call & dont speak but remain connected I am charged the same as if Im talking all the time!

  45. jono said:

    jono again. oops sorry forgot to say i will be using my phone as hot spot for laptop whilst camping

  46. jono said:

    htc wildfire . i will be using phone to watch bbci player and sky go. i have 1 gig. how long will i get before the gig expires. i have unlimited browsing and the gig is for download.

  47. Mal said:

    Hi Ken, great article!
    I recently got a Samsung Galaxy Ace from vodafone with 250mb limit. (however, they did say I will have it 'unlimited' for the first three months…) I've only had it for about a week and a half, two weeks top, and they already texted me that I've used up all my allowance! (even though it was supposed to be unlimited!) I was really surprised because all I did was watch a few videos on the 'Workout Trainer' App, update some of the present built-in apps and software (apart from the workout one, I haven't downloaded any new apps to the phone), played with the google maps for 5 minutes and then just used google talk to chat with my friends. I know it's not nothing but I'm still surprised at how quickly this has, apparently, run out. I realise videos and updates might have played a vital part but what about google talk? How much data does it approx use when it's on 24/7? I don't chat that often but even if I exit it, it still stays on so my friends can see me as available or idle. I was convinced this shouldn't take much of the data also as I don't seem to be able to completely switch it off so I'd really appreciate if you could roughly estimate how much data such an IM would use? thanks,

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mal,

      IM shouldn't really use very much data at all – off the top of my head I'd say a maximum of 0.5MB per day even if you're using it very heavily. This assumes you aren't doing things such as sending voice messages, sharing photos and other files through IM, etc. I suspect that the videos and perhaps automatically updating apps could be leading to the heavy data usage. I don't know what the quality of the videos on Workout Trainer are like, but the figures for YouTube videos in the article above should be roughly comparable.


  48. stumpy757 said:

    hi Ken, nice info.

    My wifes plan says this:

    Your Price Plan:
    Your Plan comes with 300 minutes, 500MB mobile internet, 1GB BT Openzone Wi-Fi and unlimited texts, whats the difference between 500mb mobile internet and 1gb BT open zone? i thought it was the same thing.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment! 500MB mobile internet refers to data transferred over 3G whereas 1GB BT Openzone refers to data transferred when connected to a public wi-fi hotspot maintained by BT Openzone. Typically you'll be making use of the 500MB over 3G: the separate 1GB allowance only applies when you deliberately connect to an Openzone hotspot.

      Hope this helps!


  49. madaboutplants said:

    this is an excellent site for senior citizens like me.i have learnt a lot so thank you.i do have a question for you,Ken.i wanted to tranfer my treasured txt msgs from nokia c3-01 to my first smartphone.i txted some and then deleted them by mistake as i didnt understand i researched the net and found that simple way was to email them to myself.i noticed that my txt msg changed to i rang virgin to check if this comes out from my data allowance.they said yes.i sent some and found out that i was being charged for this.have you any suggestions for me. i have txt msgs that i want to keep do i do this. i just want to read them now and again.also how do i save my msgs on my phone.its galaxy ace

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      Thanks for the message. Unfortunately, MMS messages will be charged individually and are not included in your allowance. You can copy your text messages to the SIM card on your Nokia C3-01: see this article for more information. Text messages saved on your SIM card should then appear on your new Galaxy Ace!

      Hope this helps,


  50. AVA said:

    Thanks this was really useful. I am new to getting internet on my phone and when I recently upgraded I negotiated unlimited internet with T-mobile. However it turns out that actually they mean unlimited browsing and 250mb download limit. I have spent ages trying to work out if this will be enough for me. It is so irritating that they just wont be upfront about these things right from the start.

  51. Maria said:

    Very helpful! Thank you.

  52. Steven said:

    Thank you for making sense of data allowance. Very informative and explained very clearly. Excellent article.

  53. Kafrin said:

    Thanks for clarifying this, I understand it now. And thanks for the link to the Watchdog app. I’m not rich, so need to keep my spending to a minimum. Cheers, K

  54. Jan said:

    Excellent advice, thank you very much. I wanted to know if the free web access I just got from Vodafone would interfere with my wi-fi (home) usage and found the answer I needed (no, it won't!)

  55. Mark said:

    O2 do not automatically charge you a pound a day if you exceed you allowance, the £1 a day charge is for pay and go customers who don’t have any data bolt-on. The allowance with pay monthly is capped, if you reach 80% of your data o2 will send you a text, if you run out of data you will not automatclly be charged, you can add a one off monthly bolt on to keep you going. Otherwise use wi-fi whenever you can, if you get into the habit of connecting to wi-fi this will save you monthly data for when your out and about, 1GB is a lot of data 100,000 web pages roughly.

  56. Honey said:

    Hello, could you tell me if I were to watch live TV on my iphone at home via my wi-fi would it still use my 3G allowance? Thanks a lot

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      No – this would not count towards your 3G allowance. Any traffic transferred over your home wi-fi does not go through your mobile operator at all :)

      Hope this helps,


  57. @stephen_se92 said:

    Ken? Thank you very much indeed. And congratulations on a fantastic page. You anticpated my every question and with time-saving links.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Stephen,

      I'm really pleased that the page was useful!!


  58. Paul said:

    Just got off the phone to a Vodaphone sales person, although he was very friendly, I knew he just wanted the sale! I did upgrade to 500mb (after being ripped off last upgrade) So this site was extremly helpful! Thank you for breaking it down into words we can all actually understand and trust!

    By the way, bartering works! I got a good deal!

  59. jojo said:

    Very helpful, thank you! :0)

  60. flo said:

    Hi. I'm planning on buying the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S White, as I'm using my current phone mostly to take pictures and it's dying. I'll use my new phone mostly to call/text and I will be editing documents. This is going to be my first smartphone. Can you pease help me work out the data I need? I usually check my emails about 4 times per day, go on facebook 4 times/day and upload 5-10 videos and 20-30 pictures every week. I google information, looking at maybe 50 pages/week. I don't know yet if I'll use any apps, I don't think I'll be interested that much in them (say I'll get 2-5 apps a month on average). I'll also use some sat-nav on it (same 2-3 times per month for 15-30min each). There are plans out there for 100Mb, is that enough or should I get more? I've never been on contracts before and am a bit worried I might not get the right level. Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Flo,

      I'd recommend getting more than 100MB – this may not be enough for your usage. Try a 500MB data plan – this should probably be OK unless you upload a lot of photos and videos. If you upload *a lot* of photos and videos, I'd recommend having a look at Three's all-you-can-eat data plans!


  61. funkola said:

    this was very helpful. thank you

  62. Martin Powell said:

    Thanks Ken you are a great big light in a mobile world of darkness.

  63. Roger said:

    Very Good article, I am about to get a smartfone contract in Spain, and dont speak
    much Spanish , reading through the smallprint, it states via google translate..?
    Voice interpersonal 24h: Includes 300 min / month, unlimited calls and call set free.
    After all the bonus:
    Rate per minute: 18 cts. / Min
    (21.24 with tax).
    Of call: 15cts.
    (17.70 with tax).
    Interpersonal SMS to all operators at any time
    UNLIMITED (500 MB at maximum speed)

    Traffic is priced in seconds from the first second.
    Rates valid to and nationally.

    So question? am Limited or not? it states max speed????
    Confused old man]
    Thanks for any help

  64. Oonagh said:

    My partner has just received a mobile phone bill for £9316.84 in VAT from vodafone. It turns out his 15yr old son was streamlining youtube without realising how much it cost.
    There was no attempt from vodafone to contact the bill payer at any stage. What do you think would be the best course of action in this case. He has had the phone since May without ever once going over the limit. We are very, very worried. Thanks for any advice.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Oonagh,

      I'm very sorry to hear about your situation. I'm afraid I can't really comment as I don't know the details of the situation nor am I a lawyer, but I'd say the best immediate course of action is to contact Vodafone – I'm surprised that the credit limit on the account was high enough for the bill to be able to reach £9,300. The next step would be Ofcom and consumer rights organisations such as the CAB if there is no luck pleasing your case with Vodafone.


  65. Steve said:

    Thank you for de-mystifying this subject for a non-techie!

  66. Eileen said:

    Hi sorry to be stupid but am unsure has to how wifi which we have in the house to use our computer can be an advantage or not too my smarphone

  67. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    By popular demand, this post has just been updated with two additional stats:

    1. Many people ask about Skype calling. According to Skype, a typical call has a 50kbit/s bitrate. Our testing on a Galaxy Nexus showed it showed it used around 70kbit/s. A bit rate of 70kbit/s would amount to 0.55MB/minute and hence 500MB = 15 hours.

    2. Many people ask about downloading applications. Applications vary in size quite a lot, but we downloaded the 20 most popular free applications on Android. In total, they came to 121MB. For this reason, we've taken the average app to be 6.1MB in size. Hence 500MB = 80 apps.


  68. Ankh said:

    Good article but one small thing that always annoys me when I see it, it's actually 1024 Killobyte and 1024 Megabytes in a Gig.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ankh,

      Thanks for the comment! It's a little known fact that the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standardised on 1MB = 1000KB and 1GB=1000MB in 1998. They also defined some binary prefixes so 1024 bytes = 1 kibibyte, 1024 kibibytes = 1 mebibyte, etc. Though you are correct in saying that usage isn't consistent across the industry so it could actually mean either! I'd say the definition of 1,000 is more useful for this purpose – sticking to 1000 rather than 1024 means you won't inadvertently exceed your download limit!

      Hope this helps,


  69. Sue said:

    My son has just got a blackberry on talk talk with 1GB data allowance. He has set up his wifi connection at home,however on the phone it had the wifi connection "ticked" and the talk mobile connection ticked" I assume so he can still pick up phone calls . My question is if he is on the Internet how do we know it is using our wifi connection and not the talk mobile connection as I don,t want hike to be eating into his day allowance at home

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Sue,

      You'll get an icon in the notification bar at the top of the screen to show when wi-fi is connected, and also the signal strength. As well as this, the name of the wi-fi network should be displayed on the home screen. If you see this, you can rest assured the internet traffic is going over wi-fi rather than 3G.

      Hope this helps!


  70. mfro said:

    Thanks for this clear, succinct article. I'm hoping to switch to a smartphone soon and found this article, and the comments and your response to them, extremely helpful.

  71. nicole said:

    for the new HTC sensation is 500MB a substantial amount, for a girl who like facebook reads emails and just wants fast internet (checking train times, cinema)

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Nicole,

      I think 500MB should be fine providing you don't use your phone for downloading music, videos or for voice over IP (e.g. Skype). For Facebook, email, train times, cinema, etc. you should be absolutely fine with 500MB!

      Hope this helps,


  72. joeninety said:

    I have a Xperia Ray on pay as you go t-mobile. I was thinking of taking out the interent booster for £20 for 6 months, from your article can you tell me what my limit will be, 500mb or the 1gb you mentioned

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      T-Mobile's £20 for 6 months deal comes with 500MB allowance per month.

      Hope this helps,


  73. Hannah said:

    I'm rubbish at this stuff sorry
    So if I got a contract iPhone 4s and got the 500mb how many hours roughly a day could i spend on the internet without being charged and going over at the end of the month? x

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Hannah,

      The link between time online and data usage isn't exact but I'd say you should be fine with 500MB/month unless you download/stream music or video or make voice over IP calls (e.g. Skype). The average user consumes around 250MB per month.

      Hope this helps,


  74. ZZZ said:

    Thanks for the article man, helped me a lot :)

  75. dave said:

    hi ,is it possible to trace where you have used all your mobile data on …put my works sim card in a htc desire smartphone and it rack a bill up of 600 pounds

  76. Kingfisher 97 said:

    Thank you!! I also thought that the usage was a bit high for a week but i turned it off for a few days and now its gone back to 0mb usage so i'll check when my bill comes through if it was for that or not! Thanks so much again!

  77. SPaterson said:

    Thanks for all the easy to understand information in your article and for getting back to me so quickly. I'll keep a close eye on it over the coming weeks and stop the kids from playing on it. :-)

  78. SPaterson said:

    Hi, I am on orange dolphin 25 with 500mb and unlimited emails. I took the contract out with a htc wildfire s. After a few months of using the phone I grew to dislike it more. I purchased an iPhone 4s from apple, telephoned orange and got them to send me the micro sim. I wonder if could advise, does the iPhone use up more mobile data than an android phone? My normal usage for a month on the htc was just over 100mb I noticed on checking my usage on the iPhone after 3 days that I'd used 70mb. Does it matter that I don't have wifi bt openzone when out and about. Thanks for taking the time to read my comment/questions. SP

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there SPaterson,

      No, there shouldn't be any substantial differences between iPhone/Android – it's more what you do with your phone that counts. So the increased usage is probably due to the fact your iPhone is so new and you're spending a lot of time playing with it and downloading new apps (whereas most people settle down after a while of having the same phone and download fewer apps).

      Hope this helps,


  79. Kingfisher89 said:

    Hi, I hope you can help clear some things up for me as i'm a little confused!

    I got a samsung galaxy on my first ever contract (with orange) last week with 750mb internet usage. ive mainly used the internet for facebook, twitter and the occassional browse but not constantly or for downloading music, watching youtube videos etc. (Luckily) I thought I should see how much i've used and found that i've already used up the allowance and my usage now totals £2.75. I don't think I've used the internet that often to use it all up but what i wanted to check is whether the additional charges are, for example, an additional £1 per day if I continue to use the internet or if i stopped using it until it resets, whether it will add on a £1 a day regardless?

    So in other words, is it £1 per day charge for going over the allowance and therefore a massive charge at the end of the month on top, or a £1 per day extra on top of the normal monthly charge to use the internet if you wanted to once the allowance is reached?

    I'd really appreciate some advice on this, and also how not to go over the allowance again!!
    Many Thanks!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kingfisher,

      If it is indeed data usage you're being charged for (I'd be surprised if you managed to go over 750MB in a week with that usage pattern), it's a charge of £1/day for the days which you use the internet. If you turn data off on your Galaxy, there will be no charge.


  80. R C said:

    Simple and to the point very good site I will pass it on.

  81. alan said:

    how many time taken for completing 1gb in our pc

  82. cpscallaway said:

    thanks for this info!! just what I needed to know :)

  83. momo said:

    Is 5 gig a month enough, just for browsing the net for about 5 hours a day, whats apping constantly, msning and emailing? I just want to leave the 3g connection on permanently. How much data would that eat?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi momo,

      5GB should be more than adequate for those things!


  84. Joe said:

    If I buy into a prepaid plan that offers 750 minutes of talk, text, and data, am I correct in assuming that however long any internet page takes to download will be how many minutes is subtracted from the plan?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Joe,

      Nope. Internet pages will be subtracted from the data part of your plan (however much data it takes to download that webpage)!


  85. jade said:

    how about 1 gb internet sim card how many hours if i use on vedio call on skype

  86. JCC said:

    Many thanks for clear and concise article.

  87. theclaw said:

    if you want a bargain use giffgaff(02) network £10 per month pay as you go 250 mins unlimited texts,and unlimited internet no download limit AND NO FAIR USE POLICY AT ALL…………..

  88. xxx said:

    thanks………i was considering which monthly plan to get (500MB vs 1GB), and now I know, very well explained.

  89. DA11ANZ said:

    Can anyone help , Im on o2 100mins unlimited uk texts for £15.32 per month. When i log onto "My o2" it tells me that my daily limit (Data Usage) is 100MB it also says that i can use data at my standard rate (What is this?) but i will never be charged more than £1 per day. Yesterday i deleted all my APPS, turned off background Data Usage in the settings and finally turned off my phone. When I checked at 11pm last night I had used 1.4MB of Data and had been charged 85p. Today I have already been charged another 85p (Phone is turned off exept when checking data) my Bill for last month was £52 ? Does this sound excessive. The phone is an LG Optimus. If i am going to be charge 85p (+vat I expect) for not using anything then why is this offered as a £15p/m tarriff?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      It sounds like you don't have a data package with your contract which explains why you are being charged up to £1/day for internet usage. Best thing to do would be to call up O2 and switch to a tariff with inclusive internet!


  90. Loobyluce said:

    Thankyou for your helpful advice! A good deed indeed!

  91. Emmy said:

    This is an amazing easy to understand web site! Thank the lord someone has taken the time to do this!

  92. Mystery Man said:

    Cheers Ken!

    I am considering upgrading to my first ever smartphone from a VERY old Nokia 1100 so this article has been extremely useful.

    Thanks a lot!

  93. Mike said:


    There is some info here regarding SKY, these are for Anytime+ downloads but should be good indicators:

    At best you're looking at an hour's viewing for 500MB, they may compress the signal somehow for mobile but personally I wouldn't be using SKY Go on a mobile device, except over WIFI.


  94. robert said:

    my contract is supposed to be £20 a month but for the last 3 months it has come in at £60. I rang vodafone up to ask why it was this price and they said my blackberry makes an update every night at 12 and becuase internet wasnt a part of my contract i was having to pay 89p every time. I was not made aware of this when i brought the i entitled to ask for the money back?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Robert,

      I'm afraid I'm no expert on consumer law – sorry. Vodafone have a valid argument in that your phone was using data services and so you should be charged. You may also have an argument in that you never authorised the use of the data service and that you were unaware of the use. My suggestion is to disable the automatic update at midnight to prevent further charges – whether you want to go further and to dispute the additional £40 worth of charges is something I cannot advise on!


      1. robert replied:

        thanks for taking the time to reply

  95. amelia said:

    if you downloaded a free app and then you go on to play it then it wouldnt take your megabites off , will it ?
    and if you hook it up the the wifi it wont take megabites off will it?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Amelia,

      It might or it might not – it depends on the game! If you're connected to wi-fi, it definitely won't come out of your mobile internet download allowance.


      1. amelia replied:

        thanks alot of help

  96. Anna said:

    Thank you for this, very helpfull!

  97. paul said:

    hi just got an iphone 3 with 500mb got it connected to sky go when not at home how long would 500mb of viewing last

  98. amelia said:

    thanks for this but im still insure – im getting a phone in a few days and theres this deal on an android phone which gives me 250mb free of internet a month. if i do get this phone i will only be on facebook and downlading free apps , will 250mb be enough??
    also when you download free apps and then u go on to play it , it wont take ur megabites off ,, will it ???
    please help me
    any help will be apperciated

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Amelia,

      I'm afraid it's so hard to say – every single app will use different amounts of data so there isn't a universal answer. Do you have a specific one in mind?


      1. amelia replied:

        thankyou for that but im more to the question : if you download a free internet app will it take off your megabites or not plus when you hook it up to the wifi and you are on apps or facebook that wont take away megabites will it ?


  99. max said:

    hi im getting the samsung galaxy ace , and when i top up £10 i get 500mb internet and i am at home alot of the time , i have wi-fi so when i connest to it will that 500mb decrease ???
    thanks max

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Max,

      Any downloads over wi-fi will not count towards your 500mb allowance.


  100. Juliet Stephenson said:

    I know this is an old article but I'd just like to point out that O2 customers are only charged up to £1 per day if they do NOT have an internet allowance (bolt on). Once the monthly limit is reached your mobile data speed is simply slowed down until the next month. Otherwise, great article, very useful thanks!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Juliet,

      Many thanks for your comment! The article should say that the excess charge on O2 is £1/day although it's possible something has been left out – if you can spot anywhere in the article with the old prices please let me know!


  101. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for the kind words! It shouldn't do no: GPS positioning alone shouldn't use up any data – that said if the application does things such as automatically downloading maps of your current location that would eat into your allowance. For a sports tracker application I'd say it would be very unlikely to use very much data!


  102. Lynn Nicholson said:

    Hi Ken
    Brilliant article, I understand so much more now!
    Just 1 quick question, will using a sports tracker/sat nav type application eat into my allowance considerably?

  103. Michelle said:

    Hi Ken, I've recently got a contract phone, £20 per month with 250 mb. My monthly bill was over £41 last month but I barely use it. I do receive about 25 emails a day but have only ever replied to one and have looked at FaceBook and internet a couple of times. Not sure why my bill is so high, perhaps I have something switched on that is using up all my mbs? I checked my usage this month after one week and had already used up my allowance!


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Michelle,

      Sorry to hear about the problems you're having. My first recommendation is to make sure you use wi-fi at home: this should cut your data usage substantially. Secondly, monitor your data usage using something like 3G Watchdog (for Android devices). You can set up this application to alter you or automatically disable your internet connectivity when you reach a certain point (e.g. 225mb). Hopefully this application will help you to work out why you exceeded your data allowance last month: for example it could be that you've downloaded a software update or several large applications from App Store/Android Market over 3G.


  104. MEME said:

    I just got my new phone and i have 750mb data allowance a month,

    Am i right in thinking this will be ok to use Facebook daily, read the few emails i get and occasionally check cinema times?

    I have wifi in my home so at home it will connect to that. But out and about will it eat into my allowance as its a smart phone?I.e, be connected to the internet all the time, or will i have to keep turning it off and on again?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Meme,

      Yes you can… if those are the things you use your smartphone for, and especially with wifi at home, no need to worry about a 750mb data allowance. Things like online radio, YouTube, music downloads, etc. are the only things you really need to worry about – those are the things which eat up your data allowance very quickly!


  105. overfield01 said:

    Yeh really helpful, good to get some figures actually in front of you and in black and white.

    I'm planning on upgrading to an I-Phone with 750mb allowance but just need to make sure im not getting conned. My current contract for my vivas is consistantly high but i reckon this may be down to the fact that no data charges are even considered in my contract, and standard data charges are given? I only really use the internet for facebook and football scores, so i'm slightly puzzled as to how my bills are often quite expensive.

    Thanks, Stu

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:


      If you don't have an inclusive data allowance in your package this would mean you're paying standard rates for data – it could be as high as £4/MB in some cases – or sometimes £1 or £2 per day depending on your tariff. If you've got an inclusive data allowance, you shouldn't have to worry about data costs providing you keep within the 750mb allowance :)


  106. Bill said:

    Hi Ken. Really helpful articale.
    would like to bounce a few questions off you if that is ok. My 14 year old daughter has a SIM ONLY Orange 12 month contract for £10 a month giving 300 minutes plus UL text per month, She wants to buty a Blackberry Curve (has an LG350 currently) but i am a little out of my depth re data (i have a company iphone so do not get any costs). So after speaking to Orange i am not able to change her current contract for another 7 months(seemed like a good idea at the time). The only option i think i have is to add a £5 per month 500MB bundle to her current contract and buy a Blackberry. thats the story so far the questions i have are. Can BBM only be sent to other Blackberry users and are they FOC. She is an strong user of TEXT messaging but i do not believe that BBM is a full replacement of this. In the house she can use the WiFi FOC but will stream data for Facebook, tumblr Utube and Skype when out an about. After reading your article FB is ok however Skype and Utube are an issue due to data use. can you confirm all this for me please? any advise is greatly recieved. Thanks Bill

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comment. Adding a data bundle sounds like a reasonable solution – however make sure it's a BlackBerry data bundle. BlackBerry devices cannot be used with any old data bundle – more info here.

      BBM messages can only be exchanged between BlackBerry users. They are free of charge. SMS messaging is still important for contacting friends who don't use BlackBerry. An alternative application called WhatsApp is similar to BBM but can be used on Android and iPhone devices too.

      And you are correct :) Skype and YouTube will use up 3G data allowances *very* quickly; but Facebook and Tumblr should be fine. If Skype and YouTube are used over wi-fi, it doesn't count towards the 500MB limit on 3G.

      Hope this helps,


  107. Lesley said:

    I'm thinking about swapping to '3' but concerned about coverage. I'm based on the south coast in Sussex but regularly travel into Wiltshire, Hampshire & Yorkshire. Anyone experienced any problems.

  108. Nathan said:

    this is helped a lot I am look at changing my contract & will use to info from this to choice what I need

  109. Hannah said:

    This is a brilliant article!
    But I've just bought a blackberry on virgin with 1GB of internet a month and I'd like to know if there's any way in which I can check to see how much internet connection I've got left. Is there a way??

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks Hannah!

      I've never tried it myself, but there is an application called "Network Traffic Control" in the BlackBerry App World which promises to measure the amount of data you use.

      If you give it a go, please let us know what you think!


  110. Sara said:

    yikes – I had no idea radio would use up so much… won't be using that again without wifi! Glad I hadn't yet sent that angry email to Three!!
    Really useful article – thank you so much

  111. chris said:

    how easy is it to switch between data usage and wifi at home? does an iphone do it automatically when in range of home wifi? thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Chris,

      If you leave wi-fi turned on then your phone will automatically connect to a wi-fi network. However, many people choose to disable wi-fi functionality when they're not using it to extend battery life.


  112. Gemma said:

    wow! This article is amazing. much better then standing in a shop for hours on end asking all of my questions and remembering nothing when i come out.

    Would just like to ask, i have been thinking about getting the i phone 4 on a 3 mobile contract and unsure if 500mb would be enough. as im going to uni in september i can easily connect to the wi-fi on campus and also connect to the wi-fi at home and therefore not use up and of my 500mb a month. The only places i would use my MB up would be on a bus or out and about where wi-fi isnt available. Is this correct? And do you think in my case, it would be wise to go for 500mb?

    Thanks a lot


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gemma,

      Thanks for the kind words! In general, 500MB per month should be plenty providing you don't download/stream music or video over 3G – you'll need to save those things for when you have wi-fi on campus or at home. Things like Facebook, Google Maps and browsing the web alone shouldn't take you anywhere close to 500MB so I would say it's fine! That said, it might be worth looking at The One Plan if you're looking for some reassurance with no download limits.


      1. Gemma replied:

        Thanks Ken.

        Just got my new i phone 4 :) and i got the one plan as they did me a good deal. and just to let others know i am on three mobile and on the one plan "unlimited" actually means unlimited so i am very happy :)

        Thanks again ,

        Gemma x

  113. Carla said:

    When you say downloading video (example iTunes, not watching streaming video such as YouTube) does 1 hour mean the download time or the length of the video? Thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Carla,

      The figures in this article refer to the length of the video as opposed to the download time. Note that we made assumptions on the bitrate(quality) of the videos.


  114. Bella said:

    Great post, thank you, quick question – To send an SMS message on a Blackberry curve 8520 I turn on my mobile wireless setting – as I have no reception otherwise… does this use my internet allowance of 500mb up? Is it ok to leave the wireless setting on, so I can send SMS messages? Or do they send without this? Any suggestions asap would be so so so much appreciated as I need to use the phone ASAP!!! Thank you.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Bella,

      Many thanks for your comment. Are you sure you're sending an SMS message and not WhatsApp/BBM/MMS or SMS through some application? You shouldn't need to enable data to use SMS!?


  115. Billie said:

    Hi I found this article really helpful! Can I ask a quick question? – even when i have a wifi connection (at home) it still comes on my bill as using the mobile internet usage,when I know for a fact I have down all my internet browsing through our wifi connection…. do you know why this is? is there a setting on my phone where i need to turn off mobile internet, or should it happen automatically. my phone is set to automatically use wifi when available….

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Billie,

      Yes – your phone will have an option to turn off "mobile network data" or something. Turn this off if you are billed for mobile internet – typically your phone will automatically switch to 3G for data if it loses the wi-fi connection (e.g. you stray outside the range of the wi-fi hotspot, connection temporarily lost due to microwave interference, etc.)


  116. Susan said:

    I've just got my 1st smart phone today and am just getting to grips with it. You're advice has been really helpfull as I am so new to using the phone for internet and many people have been telling me to watch out for this and that, so I'm a bit nervous about using it. I have unlimited internet and I need to know if the apps continue downloading (and thus eat up my usage) even when i'm not using it. I will mainly be going on facebook, twitter and my emails. If they do is there a way to stop this or turn them off when i dont want to use them? I really dont know what I'm doing with this do I?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Susan,

      Facebook/Twitter/E-mail probably will use some data even when you're not using it (e.g. your phone might automatically download new e-mails). That said, I really wouldn't worry about Facebook, Twitter or E-mail taking you anywhere close to your download limit if you only use your smartphone for these things. It's only really things like music, video, downloads, radio, Skype, etc. where you need to worry about download limits.


  117. Dick Hansell said:

    Hi Ken

    Great article and very helpful (even to an ex-IT guy!)
    Having worked in the industry for many years I'm appalled that there is still confusion about GB as Giga Bytes and GB as Giga Bits/Sec. I'm never really sure myself when the mobile providers (or general ISPs for that matter) quote GB whether they are talking about bits or bytes!
    What's your understanding?

    Also, on a related subject, many mobile Internet users can log into office systems at their place of work using Citrix (or GoToMyPC). Since these systems only transfer changes in the bit patterns of the office screen (or it's pseudo version in a server) down the line and mouse movements, etc up the line wouldn't it be cheaper to access the Internet this way (always assuming their company policise allow them to do this)?
    What do you think?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Dick,

      Given the overhead of creating the session – I strongly suspect this would be much more bandwidth intensive. However, I recommend investigating applications such as Opera Mini which can compress webpages. This is probably along the same lines as what you're suggesting but with a lot less overhead!



  118. Lily-Rose said:

    hi there i am going to go away to tenarife in 1 months time to celebrate my Th and was wondering my hotel has wi-fi but will it still charge me even if im picking up a wi-fi signal

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Lily-Rose,

      You'll be pleased to know that you won't be charged when using hotel wi-fi. However, please make sure you've disabled data roaming to avoid large charges which could be incurred if you accidentally connect to a 3G service (see our top 10 tips for using your phone abroad).



  119. Anna said:

    Thanks for this article. I am a bit of a technoilliterate and it has been hugely helpful in explaining some basic terms. I want to upgrade my phone to an iphone 4. However, I want a £35 tariff that I currently am on and I really don't want to pay very much for the phone. I notice that Three is offering a 1GB deal on an iphone 4 for £35 a month and only charging £35 for the phone which looks pretty good to me. I wonder if there is a catch – what do you think?
    Also if i download applications such as games and have them stored on my phone – will I use up any MB's when I play games etc.. etc..

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Anna,

      Thanks for your comment! For a review of Three's £35 tariff (called The One Plan), see our review here.

      With regards to games… *normally* they don't use very much data. Some games will use data but this varies depending on the game and what kind of features it incorporates. However, I would say that you most certainly shouldn't worry about data usage from playing games stored on the phone – it won't eat up a significant amount of data. Probably 1MB tops.


  120. connor said:

    1megabyte is actually 1024 kilobytes. If you didnt know that then i am skeptical about what else you may be wrong about in this article

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Connor,

      Technically a megabyte is 1000 kilobytes whereas a mebibyte is 1024 kilobytes. More info at However, usage is inconsistent within the industry and many people use a megabyte to mean 1024 kilobytes. For the purposes of mobile data, we suggest using the ISO definition of 1 megabyte = 1000 kilobytes and 1 gigabyte = 1000 megabytes. The reason being that because it's ambiguous what your mobile operator actually means, confining yourself to the lower limit will ensure that you don't exceed your download allowance & incur extra charges. In practice, this is mostly an academic argument as the probability of data usage being between 1000MB and 1024MB in a given month is very small.


  121. grace said:

    So I'm looking at getting a blackberry with 1GB of mobile web it doesnt have 3G so will I be able, with this, to go on facebook and few times a day and possibly twitter and some other websites without going over my limit

  122. George said:

    I might be getting a Samsung Galaxy Ace and wondering if 500mb is enough. For Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and maybe an occasional photo upland. Enough?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi George,

      For Facebook and Twitter – 500MB is more than enough. Occasional photo uploads should be OK (I presume you won't be uploading more than 40-50 per month). For YouTube videos, it might not – see the figures for online video in the table above.



  123. Pippin said:

    OK I know I'm a bit thick but age is against me so please be gentle. If I use my mobile for navigation York to London over a period of four hours. How much of my download allowance will I have used?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Pippin,

      Very difficult to tell – is this Google Maps on Android? To be honest I wouldn't worry about data usage for navigation – it certainly isn't a lot! Maybe a megabyte – probably not even that much but I don't have any hard figures I'm afraid…


  124. Becca said:

    i am thinking about getting a iphone 4 on three and i dont know what data useage to get as i want to use apps facebook occasionally google and msn chat wondering if you recomend the 500mb or unlimited as there is a slight price difference. also i was planning to get the £30 a month one with unlimited but i cant find it it says it would run out on the 31st of may do you know if it has stopped
    thank you

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Becca,

      500MB should suffice for Facebook and instant messaging applications. If you're looking to listen to online radio or watch online video, it might be worth considering the all-you-can-eat package instead.


  125. Chavdar said:

    hello to all! first sorry for my bad English but i`m from Bulgaria! i have a one question! in my home me need from internet but we don`t have BT-line! and to make BT line is to expencive! that`s why i search a lot of deals in internet for offer and i think i found the right one! this is on 3 all-you-can-eat-data we will use my phone like HOT SPOT (like router) and the question is "we have 3 laptops and i must to know the speed for the internet from 3 Mobile? are the speed is good for us? thanks in advance and have a nice day all

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:


      For more info on mobile broadband & using The One Plan for mobile broadband see my write-up here.

      On the whole, home broadband will offer a much better speed – you will probably find it cheaper to take line rental at roughly £11/month plus a basic broadband package at ~£7.50/month. This adds up to £18.50/month which compares well with mobile broadband given you'll get much better speeds & download limits with home broadband. The One Plan is £25/month.



  126. Marie-Louise said:

    I may sound really dumb by this but my partners sister has the HTC wildfire and her phone often shows a little 3g symbol near her signal bars (she is on tmobile). I myself am on 3 but get the letter 'R' showing, and as far as I am aware have the data roaming settings turned off. How do I know when my phone is connected to the mobile internet? (how do i do this even?) As I am paying monthly for threes text 500 (500 mins, 5000 text, 1gb internet), so far I have only connected to my home WI-Fi but am now worried that i'll get charged a lot extra due to this 'R' symbol which I am presuming means roaming, yet as mentioned I have turned off the data roaming facilities. I have downloaded various free Aps, visited websites using the browser and have my two email accounts setup, as far as i know using wifi only. I have the HTC Desire. Help! – thanks in advanced!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Marie-Louise,

      Thanks for your comment. I'm unsure about the exact reason – but does the R symbol correspond to the fact you're roaming on Orange 2G? Although they've begun turning it off in some areas, there are still many places where it's active.


  127. tony tibbs said:

    when it says 500mb mobile web does it mean that you can have unlimited time on the internet until the 500mb runs out or you have to pay for the internet ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Tony,

      Mobile web is charged by the amount you download rather than the time you spend on it. So the amount of time you spend on the internet doesn't directly affect your data usage: only what you do in that time.

      Hope that helps,


  128. ray said:

    looking to get htc hd7 from o2 with a 500mb bolt-on then also offers me moblie boardband at
    500MB + Unlimited Wi-Fi (30 days) £10.21 per month
    2GB + Unlimited Wi-Fi (30 days) £5.11 per month
    1GB + Unlimited Wi-Fi (30 days) £15.32 per month

    is this different to the data package or the same thing ??

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ray,

      This is indeed different from a data package for your phone – I believe you're looking at mobile broadband (USB dongle) tariffs.


  129. peter said:

    What would be really interesting is to correlate speed of downloads along with data limits. All the major networks 'throttle' their networks according to the price you pay, although none of them publicize their actual or even theoretical 'Upto' speeds.

  130. Mark said:

    Hi. Can someone help me. I have just got the new I phone 4 and within the network section there are options to enable 3G, mobile data and data roaming. Can someone tell me what these are and the differences between them?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mark,
      The 3G toggle determines whether you can use 3G/HSDPA high-speed data on your phone. This sometimes uses more power than 2G but you'll get much better download speeds.
      The mobile data toggle determines whether you can use data over the mobile network at all – I'd turn this off only if you were on a tariff without inclusive data (otherwise you can still use wi-fi networks)
      Finally, the data roaming toggle determines whether your iPhone can connect to the mobile networks whilst abroad. Be aware that this will often cost ~£6/MB so it's strongly recommended you have this OFF.
      Hope this helps,

  131. amac said:

    Great article, I've been flirting with my data plan limit (1GB) and now realize it's probably those short YouTube videos I peek at here and there. Guess they all add up! Thanks for giving it all some parameters, I'm sharing this with my colleague.

  132. Rachel said:

    Hi found the article very helpful, just have one question. Checking useage on iPhone under Cellar Network Data it has 'Sent' and 'Receive', do I add the two of these together to work out my current usage?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rachel,

      Yep, exactly! Not sure if all networks will count "sent" data towards your download limit but usually it's pretty small compared to data received anyway!


  133. @78rider said:

    Interesting piece of article..very informative

  134. zameer said:

    hi friends
    please can you help me, 1Gb internet , how many hours i can chat or PC to PC calling.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Zameer,

      Standard chat shouldn't use up very much data at all – they're just text-based messages so you don't need to worry about it. For PC-to-PC calling, do you mean voice/video calls whilst tethering?


  135. Gerry said:

    Thanks for the very useful guide. I'm a low user on 02's Simplicity 100MB a month tariff. You didn't mention using Google Maps as a satnav – how much data would that consume on, say, a one hour journey?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for your question. As I understand it, Google Maps GPS navigation on Android downloads road information in vector format (e.g. it just downloads the route and information on where the roads are, rather than image files of the map itself like some older version of Google Maps do. Hence I wouldn't expect it to use very much data – maybe a rough on-the-order-of estimate 0.1MB per mile. You could download the 3G Watchdog application for your phone, run it on a journey and let us know what you find out though!



  136. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all of your fantastic comments and suggestions. The entire article has just gone a rewrite to try and answer some of the most commonly asked questions: also I've added a dropdown where you can view download allowance information specific to a certain tariff (e.g. for O2 you have the choice between 100MB, 500MB and 1GB when you order your tariff so our dropdown will show you exactly what these terms correspond to).

    Please feel free to drop us a further comment if you have any questions about download limits!


  137. jen said:

    Great article. I just got a new blackberry with a new network, it has a 1gb data allowance. My old BB had BB unlimited, but I only use my mobile for emails and occasional facebook/twitter. I have connected to my home wi-fi and the wi-fi icon is on my mobile. I decided to download the apps I used on my old BB, had a few emails and tried a bit of web browsing, and afterwards I checked my allowance and it says I have used my whole 1gb in 1 day, even though I have been at home and connected to my home wi-fi. I tried calling the network up but after being on hold for 15 minutes and having my call answered by someone who couldn't understand my query, I gave up. Is it correct that my allowance is all used up in one day while connected to my home wi-fi?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jen,

      This is very strange: data through your home wi-fi connection won't count towards your 1GB data allowance. The data allowance applies only to downloads over the mobile network. Please do let us know if you find out what caused your entire download allowance to be used in a day: I don't have any ideas at the moment.


  138. paul said:

    does streaming radio go heavy on usage.i luv my internet trance radio.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,

      Unfortunately it does yep. You should assume that streaming radio uses roughly the same amount of data as downloading music – around 1MB per minute of online radio.

      Online radio is encoded in 128kbit/s = 16kbyte/sec = 960kbytes/min = approx. 1MB/minute


  139. louise said:

    What a brilliant article.
    Everything I've been searching for and summarised really well.

    Thanks a lot

  140. Gardenia Maria said:

    Excellent article. 5 stars! *****

  141. Hannah said:

    Hi, i have 500mb of usage on my iphone 4 and wondered what this means in terms of downloading apps? does this mean im using up all my data allowance on apps alone??
    Also I bought a tv episode last nights and didnt realise it was 693mb but i was on a wifi network so does this count??
    Im a bit worried now about costs!!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Hannah,

      Hard to tell as applications can vary in size a lot – Angry Birds is 17MB for example whilst many other apps are <1MB. Data downloaded over a wifi network doesn't count towards your 500MB data limit so you're in luck!


  142. Susan said:

    I've just upgraded to my first smartphone, a BlackBerry with 500 MB of data usage. Your table suggests this equates to anywhere up to 500,000 emails a month, but does this mean both incoming (which I can't control) and outgoing mail (which I can)? And if I receive a mail with an attachment but don't open the attachment, does that save some capacity? Sorry to be so ignorant – I'm new at this game!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, this refers to both incoming and outgoing mail. However, chances are your phone won't automatically download every single e-mail – spam e-mail will probably be in a different folder for example and won't automatically be downloaded onto your phone. With regards to the attachment, the attachment isn't normally downloaded unless you open it. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on how your phone & e-mail application is configured.

      Hope this helps,


      1. Susan replied:

        very helpful thanks Ken. I haven't got as far as email folders yet and assumed they would be identical to those on my computer. I'm also most grateful for your tips about data roaming – that's something I would never have thought of and for obvious reasons the mobile companies don't advertise it!

  143. Jane :) said:

    I have just got a galaxy samsung with 1GB of internet, and this has really helped! :)
    at least now i know, i shouldn't have to worry about how much i'm using it etc …
    although i would like to know the same as Flynn – will staying logged in to a site mean i am using the internet constantly?
    Thanks :)

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jane,

      No. Staying logged into Facebook or another website does not mean you'll constantly be using internet – you only use internet when you access the website :)


  144. Flynn said:

    Excellent info.

    My question is,: I have facebook and MSN messenger 'logged on' all day on my pc, if I have them 'logged on' on my Blackberry 9700, is this going to use up much data? (I would log them off at night obviousley). It would be cool to see the little red messege alerts as and when they come in on my Blackberry when I'm out and about.

  145. andy said:

    HI just want everyone to be aware ,. the platform that is used to update your device will use diffrent amounts of data to some extreme and can be over the top of data 500mb usage for windows vista and less for xp version , so i have been told by (big pond ) Dose this problem also affect
    these phone type applications programs ?

  146. Danny said:

    So if i get a Galaxy S with 500mb of internet, i will be able to access facebook and other webpages like that with no limit in my monthly contract? or could i only visit so many times in a month?

  147. J-L said:

    Hi there, I'm getting A blackberry torch on o2 500. In this package I have 500mb allowance and just wondered if I eat into the allowance when streaming or using messenger through wi-fi? My current phone doesn't but it'payg. Is it the same on contract? Thanks :)

  148. Stephen said:

    A brilliant piece of straight talking, it's exactly whatI wanted to know in a very easy to understand way , Thanks.

  149. tsm said:

    i want to browse FB, occasionally google and use BBM-contract on vodafone would only cost me £20/month with blackberyy internet service-would 1 gb be enough to cover as this is the max allowed?i'd rather pay for more and not use it tbh as then i would feel safer knowing i wasnt running up a massive bill!

  150. Tony said:

    Cheers for the helpful site, i think i'll just get 500mb now not 1gb so it will save me £6 a month on 3

  151. ddfjhjh said:

    i was told i only had 2 GBs of internet on my smartphone. i wanted to know how much internet service i had and this helped alot

  152. rosie said:

    i have ordered blackberry torch 500mb usage will that be enough to browse face book (upload my photos) and download the free apps such as wasap and idioet tests??? thank you xx

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rosie,

      Yep, I think 500MB should be more than suffice for Facebook and apps!


  153. soumya said:

    i have taken 1gb so for this day how much it has charged to me can u reply for this plzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi soumya,

      Which network and tariff are you on?


  154. Claire said:

    Hi Ken

    Great article….all the answers I have been looking for on one page. I just have one last question. If I downloaded an App of a radio station is listening to that station classed as usage? I have a 2GB limit but only got it yesterday so weary of doing anything at the minute.

    Thanks a million

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Claire,

      Yes, radio station apps will typically stream audio through the internet connection and this will count towards your download limit. There is a great discussion of radio stations & data usage at James Cridland’s blog. In short, 2GB would allow you to listen to a 64kbps stream for 64 hours a month.


  155. Garry Blakeman said:

    thanks guys this really helps 500mb it is for me then

  156. goldie said:

    my daughter is using a virgin blackberry 9780 for 3 days and has a 1Gb allowance. she has downloaded 13 songs maybe over the 3G and not wi-fi. Could this take her over her 1gb as i have a bill for £70 in 3 days. Is this possible?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Goldie,

      Sorry to hear about the huge bill… but 13 songs alone would not have taken her over the 1GB allowance. One song is roughly 4MB to 5MB so I would expect 13 songs to weigh in at around 65MB absolute tops – a long way from 1,000MB (1GB). Is this definitely a data charge as opposed to an expensive phone call?


  157. Robert Green said:

    I have just purchased an iphone 4 and have downloaded an app called tunein radio which cost me 0.59 which is no problem as I always listen to the radio but I am worried that if I'm listening to the radio on it that I am using internet data.

    Can anyone shed any light on this?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Robert,

      I've had a quick Google around – it looks like TuneIn radio is an internet radio application so the answer is yes it would. The data usage would be in the order of that for downloading music tracks (listed above)… maybe slightly less depending on the quality of the streams that TuneIn uses. Bear in mind that when you're at home and connected to wi-fi, it doesn't count towards your download allowance… only when you're on 3G.



  158. Boz said:

    Thank you so much for the help, I am currently looking at the Three plan right now. Thank you so much, happy new year!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Pleased to be able to help Boz! I hope you have a happy new year!

  159. Boz said:

    Wow, so helpful, thank you so much! Unbelievably helpful! I have an iPhone 3GS right now with unlimited internet from a contract I got a year ago, I think that I may use over 500MB per month so my iPhone is absolutely perfect at the moment, I watch BBC iPlayer before I go to bed every night. I want the HTC Desire so badly though! Maybe I should just wait because my iPhone contract I think is 18 months so I should enjoy it for now! It's so annoying how you can't get unlimited internet on ANYTHING now! Very frustrating! I use the internet more than calls and texts! Anyway, what do you think I should do? Thank you so much for the help Ken!
    P.S. Just another quick question, I want a Phone for music, internet, facebook, streaming and apps etc (like an iPhone). Although I'm bored of the iPhone and am really concentrating on HTC'S, which HTC do you think is the best for me? Or any other Phone you think would suit me best? Thank you so much!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Boz,

      You'll most definitely go over your 500MB allowance if you watch iPlayer over 3G but you should be OK if you use it over wi-fi.

      You might be interested to hear that Three have just scrapped download limits and fair usage limits on "The One Plan". They now provide all-you-can-eat data. The HTC Desire is available for free on a £30/month tariff and I think it's a great phone :)


  160. Yvonne said:

    I am thinking of purchasing from Tesco Mobile a Blackberry Curve and like that you can get it on a 12 month contract and not the usual 24 months. Do you have any feedback on this as I believe this is new Tesco Mobile offering Blackberry. It says 1 GB data, 250 minutes and unlimited text and feel that is ample for my usage. Unsure whether to get or not!

  161. Floss said:

    Hi can i ask ive just got a new HTC wildfire with 300 minits and unlimited tex the lady at Vodafone told me to take out 500mb of internet so i didant get a big bill so i told here i dont go on my phone on the internett she said it dosent matter as your phone uses internett all the time so i saide you had better put it on is this right and have i have i done the right thing thanks not very good at this sort of thing so hope you can help thank you Ken

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Floss,

      With a smartphone such as the HTC Wildfire, you'll need an internet package to be able to use most of the features on the phone. For example reading your e-mail, updating Facebook, downloading and using applications, using the maps functionality and the turn-by-turn GPS navigation which is included in your phone. So even if you never open a web browser, you'll still need an internet package.

      If you really don't use any of those functions, you could disable internet connectivity on the device but you should be aware that most of the functions which set the Wildfire apart from a cheaper handset will not work correctly.

      Hope this helps


      1. Floss replied:

        Hi Ken Thanks for the info so ive just put 500mb on will that be ok i dont do Facebook or gps as own sat nav i dont do email i dont look at eney thing on my phone as will use my computer at home for all that i dont trust Facebook and Twitter at all im not good with all that stuff so i only Tex and Make calles but i liked the look of the phone and its there if i do wont it so could you just tell me will 500mb be ok for me miss borring thanks Floss

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Floss,

          If you don't use any of those features, you can disable data usage through the mobile network. There is more info over at on My Digital Life – this will save you from having to pay for the 500MB data package. Otherwise, yes, 500MB will be more than enough for you :)


          1. Floss replied:

            Thank you Ken as i find this most confussing so a big thank you for all your help and info thank you and Happy New Year Floss .

          2. Ken Lo
            Ken replied:

            Thanks for the kind words Floss. Happy new year and enjoy your new HTC Wildfire!


  162. Jimmy500 said:

    I have a 1GB data allowance on my mobile plan and have never gone over it until last month. I use my home internet for most things, only use my phone occasionally for checking bank balance, maps (very rarely), checking sports scores, etc… Youtube and facebook are free (not counted towards the data allowance) and I dont download apps (at least not in the past 4 months) or use skype. I dont use email on my phone, dont stream radio…

    Could anybody tell me how i could possibly have used over 400mb in one go, on three seperate occassions?? I'm adamant that there is no way it happened but my phone company reckons it did. I wasn't doing anything new or unusual so i dont understand how this is possible..

    In the 3 weeks since my last bill i have been tracking my usage closely and only used a total of 140mb. Is it possible the phone company screwed up? And any ideas on how i could prove that i didnt?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jimmy,

      Sorry to hear about your situation but unfortunately it would be difficult for you to prove so now afterwards. If you've got an Android phone, download the "3G Watchdog" app (a similar app should be available for other platforms). It will allow you to view information on how much data you're using from your phone. You can set it to notify you when you reach a certain threshold, compare the stats from that with your networks stats and diagnose any problemaic apps.

      My inclination is that it might be to do with your YouTube usage… as far as I'm aware all networks count YouTube usage towards the data allowance and it's possible this could have pushed you over the 1GB allowance. And whilst Three allow free Facebook but this is only to… all other Facebook usage is metered. However, Facebook usage alone is unlikely to use up very much data.

      Hope this helps,


    2. april replied:

      Jimmy500 ask your phone company to itemise your bill that way this is proof of the useage.

  163. Sarah said:

    I just ordered a internet stick, Rogers Rocket in Canada.

    Because my only other option in my area is dial up, I am giving this a try. Just going to use the internet stick in my home PC, I signed up for 1 GB.

    Does Magic Jack require a lot of data?

    Thanks :)

  164. twilight said:

    i bought 1GB of internet, n quite expensive……….. but its not frm these mentioned networks
    it finished in a week………… didnt watch movies……….
    i used skype however, n facebook…….. tell does skype use that much of the internet that i buy??? it was a normal call, not even a video call…… plz help me i, need to buy it again……….

  165. Vickie said:

    Hello Ken

    Just wondering, I have 500 MB and would like to know how much do Skype calls use?

    1. twilight replied:

      why doesnt anyone answer the skype question??? i am desperate to knw…. but no one seems to know or answer???

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi twilight,

        Sorry for the slow response… I was taking some time off for Christmas! Skype is a real bandwidth-hog. I'm not sure what the bitrate of Skype calls (and I've struggled to find a definitive answer anywhere). The audio quality of Skype calls is lower than that of music but bear in mind that during a phone call you are transmitting audio data both from the internet and to the internet. As a good approximation, you should consider Skype usage to be about the same as downloading music (maybe a bit less). My quick guesstimate is that an hour of Skype calls would use about 100MB so using Skype for even 10 hours a month would use up the entirety of your download allowance. This probably explains why you ran out of internet so quickly.

        Bear in mind that using Skype is also against the terms of use of most UK networks. The only exception is Three.

        Hope this helps,


        1. twilight replied:

          since i needed the info sooo badly……….. i searched n the conclusion of the search was that 1GB gives about 40 hours of skype calls………this apparent rule of thumb ppl have made up….!!!!!??
          ……… now i dont knw whats true n whats not,………..

          (more confused)

          i hope u can help

  166. gunzter said:

    will wi-fi connection abroad count as "roaming" and be chargeable? thanks i think you have answered most of the questions i had.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi gunzter,

      No. Data downloaded over the wi-fi connection doesn't go through your network operator at all. There are no charges for using wi-fi from your phone except from the normal charges you incur for your home broadband service. If you use a public wi-fi hotspot, same again… no charges except from any charges which might be charged by the hotspot provider.


  167. craig said:

    you might want to change the 3 internet useages as they have now changed to 500 mb :(

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Craig,

      Three changed the "unlimited" internet definition to 500MB in May and June of this year. Some customers who signed up in May/June can ask to have their internet allowance raised to 1GB. Three no longer sell packages with "unlimited" internet – all packages are now advertised with the actual limit (usually 1GB).


      1. Amy replied:

        I work at Three and the reason for the change is not that the limits have changed but instead a decision to stop using the word unlimited when it is subject to a fair use policy. Text 300 and talk plans include 500mb, Text 500 and above include 1gb while the one plan includes All you can eat data with no fair use policy at all.

  168. unsureincali said:

    sprint has a deal for a laptop that has 500mb and i feel like one trip on the internet with use that up for the month. and considering california doesnt have 4g 'yet' im slightly worried about doubling my monthly bill. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  169. Haadif said:

    Thank you very very much !!!
    And I really appreciate the fact that the person who wrote this is still replying :)

    I want to ask one question that has been asked before but no one answered it

    I really would like to know how skype calls affect your data allowance
    How much does an hour of skype calls use ?!

    And if ou know the answer to this it would be appreciated too :) … How much does Internet radio use

    Thanks for your help :)

  170. Das Phone Wunderkind said:

    I have 1gb internet usage and i frequently – stream Youtube, watch tv via BBC i-Player, stream worldwide internet radio, use google maps, google street maps, check google for quick answers, wikipedia, about 5 push emails per day, download music tracks, heck oi networks in the day time and once tethered (use mobile as a modem) for about 5 hours and didnt go over.

    I’d recommend 250mb for light users, 500mb for regular and 1gb for heavy users. if you’re unsure just ask before you sit down and agree to anything.

    500mb gets refreshed every month. general internet and facebook will be fine. be carefull with games you download as 1. you have to pay for the actual game itself. If its £3.00, add £3 onto the bill. if the game is free thats ace! 2. Downloading a game will use more data than normal because your downloading it to your phone. 3. some games you can download BUT they connect to the internet to work, even tho you’ve downloaded it you wont physically have it. Just be carefull, read everything before you click on something.

    Nothing wrong with 500mb on an i phone 4 at all. If there was, a mobile provider wouldnt give you an i phone with 500mb of internet in certain package (usually occasional to frequent users) Ive worked in a phone store for 2years.

    bbc website is light usage. internet radio is streaming. depends on how often you’d be doing it. to be safe you’d need 500mb. you’re network should provide 500mb, 750mb or 1gb depending on your provider.

    Guess i cant be seen as being ‘too’ helpful lol.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks for your contributions – we really appreciate it! Yes there is definitely a lack of knowledge about download limits here in the UK and I commend you for outlining to your customers what they mean. It's a shame that not all mobile phone salesmen do the same!

    2. Les replied:

      Thanx for ur useful info!! Has helped me alot!

  171. Das Phone Wunderkind said:

    I once worked in a store where 1GB (1024mb) package was available for £5 ($8) on top of a monthly contract but many people didnt want it as facebook and youtube wasn't the "in thing". We pitched it to most customers because it was part of our job. Low and behold a customer ran up an EXTRA £75 ($119) on their bill for about 300mb of usage because they didnt want the add-on. They came in to complain but the customer was responsible for their own usage.

  172. Das Phone Wunderkind said:

    I would just like to add that as a mobile phone sales person, i have (for the past 2years) broken down what 500mb, 750mb 1gb internet usage actually entails then relating it to that customer asking what they may use the internet for so they know what they can/cant use and what they will be limited to. I too find it strange when instore colleagues and other phone store staff dont know this info. I found it out off my own back, we've had this product in the U.K for about 2 years.

  173. aileen said:

    Hi – thanks for the very informative article. Currently I spend a fortune monthly on internet usage and all i actually do is browse facebook. I never spend long on there and can't actually get much of the app up – it's just really status updates etc. I also have 300 mins and unlimited texts in my contract and i stay within these limits. Now i want to go over to an iphone and am wondering if 500mb will be enough. like i say – all i do is browse the odd page or two of facebook a few times a day. i very occasionally look up something on google. that's it. at the minute it's extortionate the extra i pay so i want to make sure i'll be covered. any ideas anyone?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Aileen,

      Yep – 500mb should be plenty for you if you only check Facebook and use Google occasionally. It's usually pretty difficult to exceed 500MB unless you download music, videos or a lot of photos.


  174. Annsley said:

    I bought a prepaid vodafone internet package that allowed me up to 1GB over the course of 90 days. I bought it 2 weeks ago and it told me I had no more time left and had used my GB. I am abroad in Spain so I Skype with my parents a lot and watch TV on the internet and do research, but it seemed a little ridiculous. I went to ask the people at the department store I bought it at and they didnt really have any idea. Is it possible its incorrect or did I go through my 1GB using roughly 5 hours of skype and 10 hours of television and more hours of internet? Thanks for all the info!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Annsley,

      Yep – if you're doing phone calls and television, you'll use up your data allowance really, really quickly. See the guide above, and our article about watching online video from your mobile.

      I must say though… if you're abroad in Spain I would have thought that your internet allowance probably wouldn't cover data usage in Spain anyway.


  175. Jenny said:

    Thanks Ken – this is really useful – actually very reassuring as starting a new contract and was told about the 1GB limit which was concerning at the time, but now it's not!!

  176. simon said:

    I dont seem to have any mention of limits on my contract with orange but when I returned from a US trip recently i saw my bill mentioned £3.80 for internet data usage. I queried this & said I have never connected to the internet via a mobile phone. they told me I may have accidentlly pressed a wrong button! And this resulted in a £3.80 fee? YIKES! ( they did refund the money)
    How can anyone afford to do internet stuff by mobile? It could cost me £150 to check my emails!
    I have a Nokia 6700 BTW, maybe smart phones are much cheaper to connect?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Simon,

      The chances are you probably do have fair usage limits on your contract but this is not why you've been charged this time. It's more likely that you've been charged for roaming internet which costs a fortune. We've got some more info over here and info about how to stop it happening.


  177. Camel said:

    Hi, thanks, this is very helpful. But I have one more question… How does 1GB correspond to skype calls? I.e. How much of my 1GB allowance is used in a one-hour skype call? And is this different depending on whether I am using WiFi connection or a 3G connection? Thanks very much!

    1. Andriy replied:

      It's about 2 hrs of Skype = 500MB of your data

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi Andriy,

        2 hours of video calling on Skype will use up approximately 500MB. Voice calling should use up a lot less :)


  178. Courtney said:

    Really good article, now I know what the figures actually mean it will help me alot.

  179. Drake said:

    Hi, I'm only 17 (new to tariff phones and just bought one last friday) and my dad pays for my tariff but i'm scared to use my internet cos i might over use it. My tariff is 300minutes calls, unlimited texts and unlimited internet (but it came up to be 500mb monthly). Now, i've read what it says above but i'm still a little confused about the 500mb internet part. Is this means i can use my Facebook/Internet/Games i downloaded, for 'free' for a month (everyday) and when my first monthly tariff bill is payed i can use it again for another month for free and so on?

    Plese could somebody reply to this! Thanks!

    1. joe replied:

      You can use up to 500mb of data every month,check list above for what you can downlaod.

  180. mazel said:

    Thanks fr ur article. I have few questions. I just got a new blackberry 8520 contract, the data usage allowance is 500mb.

    If I turn off Mobile O2 Network in my Manage Connection settings and turn on wifi instead, and use wifi to browse and download webpages, will that also contribute to my monthly 500mb allowance ?

    Are there ways in which I could track my internet usage ? like, just to check how much MBs do I have left to use?

    thanks much.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi mazel,

      If you connect through your wi-fi network, it won't count towards your 500MB download allowance. With regards to your second question, you can find out by logging in to the "My O2" section of the O2 website.

      Hope this helps,


    2. Biko replied:

      In your third question, there is a app you can download called 3G Watchdog, it lets you know how much you are using.

      Hope this helps.

  181. aces said:

    When you actually watching the stream video you downloaded, will it separately use up your free GB for downloading and then for watching it?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      When we say that "download", simply think of that as "data transferred". If you're streaming video from the internet, data is being transferred from the internet onto your mobile phone. This counts towards your data usage limit regardless of whether you are streaming the video or saving it to memory.

  182. Caley said:

    Thank you very much for this! I had no idea that when it says 'unlimited' there is still a secret limit on usage….i was going to take a more expensive contract as i thought 'unlimited' meant just that. I definitely wont be doing that now! Cheers for really good article!

  183. Internet Noob said:

    ok, i hate to be so dumb and i know that it sais that with 1GB corrisponds to 3,000 rich web pages. but i am not downloading the web pages so why 3,000, is it a restriction or something?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:


      When you browse a web page your computer/phone must download it before it can view it.


    2. Hjalle replied:

      Theoretically whenever you load a web page you 'download' the content so that you can see it, so you are downloading it. I hope i helped a little bit

  184. Karl said:

    Excellent article. Saved me a trip to the phone shop to no doubt be confused by a sales person!

  185. kcufrehtom said:

    500MB a month will be terrible for the iphone 4 i think! does it affect if u want to download apps

    1. michael replied:

      download them on itunes on your PC then sync them onto iphone would do the trick

    2. jase replied:

      or you could use a wi-fi connection to do all of your downloading and streaming and save your 3G for when you cant remember whats-his-faces name from that film you saw and get that strange urge to find out that instant…. tehe :)

      1. Roger replied:

        yh i know what you mean – that always happens! a lot of the time, if you are around a town or city, you can usually connect to a nearby wi-fi hotspot in a coffee shop or something for 'emergency googling' :D

  186. Richard said:

    What about opening say BBC website and then listening to the radio over the net? How much does this use?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Richard :) The article has been updated with statistics about listening to online radio!

  187. anne said:

    This was extremely helpful, thanks!

  188. jay said:

    brill. thanks for this article!

  189. jakob said:

    i just browse the web on a 1gb a month what dose it mean /.

    1. tom replied:

      have you not just read the above, it explains that

    2. billy replied:

      that you have more than enough data

  190. YTT said:

    This is really helpful. Thanks

  191. joe said:

    Thanks for this. I've spent a frustrating day trying to get salespeople to explain to me what they mean by "unlimited", but they failed. Now you've told me what I need to know. Ta

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