When choosing a new mobile phone price plan, you’ll need to decide how much data you want. Find out how long each gigabyte (GB) of data will last you.

Nowadays, the key difference between mobile phone price plans is how many gigabytes of data it comes with. On some entry-level plans, this can be as little as 500MB (half a gigabyte), increasing up to 100GB on some of the most expensive plans. Some mobile phone price plans even include unlimited data so you won’t even need to worry about how much data you’re using.

In this article, we’ll explain mobile download allowances and we’ll help you to decide how many gigabytes of data you need. We’ll look at the different apps and activities you might use on your smartphone, and consider how long a gigabyte of data lasts on each one. Finally, we’ll discuss how you can find out your current data consumption and how you can reduce your mobile data usage.

Download Limits In The UK

Gone are the days when you could choose a mobile phone price plan simply based on the number of inclusive minutes and texts. Nowadays, the most important difference between mobile phone price plans is the amount of data it comes with (the number of inclusive gigabytes or GB of data).

On entry-level tariffs, you’ll normally get around 500MB (half a gigabyte) of data. As you pay more, the amount of data quickly increases, up to around 100GB on the most expensive plans. Some mobile networks even go one step further in offering an unlimited data plan meaning there’s no need to worry about how much data you’re using. Zero-rated data plans are also becoming more popular, giving you unlimited data for use on a selected range of applications.

The following table shows the range of data allowances currently available on UK mobile networks:

Mobile Network Pay Monthly Data Allowance Pay As You Go Data Allowance
ASDA Mobile 250MB to 15GB
BT Mobile 500MB to 50GB
EE 1GB to 100GB 50MB to 16GB
giffgaff 500MB to Always-On*
iD Mobile 500MB to 40GB 100MB to 4GB
O2 1GB to 100GB 2GB to 20GB
Plusnet Mobile 500MB to 12GB
SMARTY 1GB to Unlimited
Sky Mobile 2GB to 25GB
Tesco Mobile 1GB to 50GB 250MB to 8GB
Three 500MB to Unlimited 2GB to Unlimited
Virgin Mobile 1GB to Unlimited 2GB to 10GB
Vodafone 500MB to 100GB 100MB to 20GB
VOXI 6GB to 45GB

* giffgaff’s Always-On data gives you unlimited downloads, but only the first 80GB per month are at full 4G speeds. After the first 80GB per month, download speeds are capped at 384kbps between 8am and midnight.

On most mobile networks, you’ll be given a monthly data allowance that will expire if the data isn’t used during a given month. However, some mobile networks now offer a data rollover feature meaning your unused data can sometimes be carried over into a following month. SMARTY offers an unused data discount so you can get money back for any unused data.

The following table shows how monthly prices compare for plans with different amounts of data:

Amount of DataPay MonthlyPay As You Go
250MB Data--
500MB Data--
1GB Data£2.90£5.00
2GB Data£6.00£6.00
3GB Data£5.00£5.00
4GB Data£5.00£7.50
5GB Data£4.50£5.00
6GB Data£6.00£9.90
8GB Data£6.00£10.00
10GB Data£8.00£8.00
12GB Data£9.00£10.88
20GB Data£7.95£10.00
30GB Data£7.00£12.00
40GB Data£8.00£20.00
50GB Data£8.00£15.00
100GB Data£12.00£13.50
Unlimited Data£16.00£20.00

How Much Data Do I Need?

As of 2019, the average UK consumer uses around 3GB of mobile data per month. However, when choosing a mobile data plan for your own usage, it’s important to figure out how much data you personally need. This will differ based on your own individual usage patterns and requirements – there isn’t a one size fits all that will work for everyone.

Choosing a price plan with too little data could result in you getting cut off in the middle of the month. Alternatively, you might be charged expensive out-of-allowance rates for continuing to access the internet after your allowance runs out.

On the other hand, choosing a price plan with too much data could mean you’re overpaying for lots of data that you don’t actually use. Often, there will be promotions encouraging you to choose a price plan with much more data than you need (e.g. 100GB of data for £20/month). However, this is sometimes a false economy if you don’t actually need all of that data (it will cost you a lot more than a regular data plan with just the right amount of data for your usage).

How Long Will A Gigabyte Of Data Last For?

The following table gives an approximate guide to what you can do with a gigabyte of data. You can use it as an indication of how long each gigabyte of data is expected to last for:

Activity 1GB data is equal to…
Accessing web pages 600 web pages (approx. 12 hours browsing)
Basic e-mail/instant message 350,000 messages
Rich e-mail/IM (with attachments) 2,000 messages
Downloading or streaming music 200 songs
Downloading or streaming video (SD) 2 hours
Downloading or streaming video (HD) 30 minutes
Skype voice call 30 hours
Skype video call 4 hours
Listening to online radio 16 hours
Downloading or updating apps 25 apps

We’ve made a number of assumptions in coming to these numbers. You can read about these in more detail here.

For a 500MB data allowance, you should half all of the figures above (as a 500MB allowance is equal to 0.5GB). For a data allowance that’s larger than 1GB, simply multiply up the figures as appropriate (e.g. multiply by 4 if you have a 4GB download allowance).

In a given month, you’ll use multiple apps and activities on your smartphone. You should add up the data usage from each activity in finding out how much data you need in total.

Data Usage Calculator

If you’re unsure how much data you might need each month, several UK mobile networks provide an online data usage calculator:

This can be a good place to start to get an estimate of your mobile data usage. However, you should also read on and find out your actual data usage figures at the moment.

Average Data Consumption

As of 2019, the average UK consumer uses around 3GB of mobile data per month. This average data consumption has grown hugely over the past few years. For instance, according to Ofcom statistics, average data consumption was just 200MB (0.2GB) in 2012. This increased more than eight-fold to 1.9GB by 2017. Further increases are expected over the next few years with the launch of 5G and new applications.

Despite what is often said about average data usage, we think it’s important to choose the right data plan based on your own usage. For instance, some people will use a lot more data than average whereas others will use a lot less. For this reason, it’s important to look at your own individual usage, and to choose a data plan based on those requirements.

Saying that, if you’re looking to sign up for a fairly lengthy contract (e.g. for 24 months), it can be worthwhile choosing a slightly larger data plan than for your current usage. As data consumption is expected to grow over the next few years, you’ll want to future-proofing your plan for any increases in your own individual usage.

Data Usage: By App & Activity Type

Almost all apps and activities on your smartphone will consume some of your data allowance unless you’re connected to wi-fi. The following table gives you a rough guide on how much data is used by different apps and activities:

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 (e.g. Facebook, BBC, Daily Mail)
  1.7MB per web page, approximately 90MB per hour of web surfing
Mobile Data - Music Downloading or Streaming Music (e.g. MP3 files, Spotify)
  5MB per song
Mobile Data - Skype Voice Skype Voice Call
  35MB per hour
Mobile Data - Apps Downloading or Updating Apps
  40MB per app
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 (SD quality), 2GB per hour (HD quality)

Please note that the figures given above are only an approximation. Things like web pages and applications vary hugely in size, depending on things on like how rich in multimedia they are. Similarly, online video streaming can vary hugely in data usage depending on the service you use and the quality of your stream.

Our assumptions:

  1. Web Browsing: As of April 2019, the median web page size is 1.7MB when accessed from a mobile device.
  2. Music: Assuming an average bitrate of 160kbps, one minute of music will be approximately 1.2MB. Therefore, a four minute song will be approximately 5MB in size.
  3. Skype Calls: Our testing found a Skype voice call to consume 0.55MB/minute (70kbps). A Skype video call was found to consume 4MB/minute (500kbps).
  4. Online Video: Data consumption varies hugely depending on what you’re watching and the quality of the video stream. For instance, BBC iPlayer uses 225MB of data per hour in standard definition. Meanwhile, YouTube uses 600MB (standard definition), rising to 2GB (high definition). Netflix uses 1GB of data per hour (standard definition), increasing to 3GB per hour (high definition). We’ve used an average of 500MB per hour for standard-definition video and 2GB per hour for high-definition video.

How To Find Out Your Current Data Usage

Smartphone Data Usage Monitor

The best way to find out your current data usage is to check through your smartphone’s built-in data usage monitor.

  • iPhone: On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mobile Data.
  • Android: On Android, go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data Usage.

The information on this screen can be used to understand how much data you currently use. You’ll be able to see a breakdown of how and when that data was used. You can also set up automatic alerts for when your data usage exceeds a certain amount each month.

The information displayed on this screen is a good indicator of how much data you’re currently using. You can use it as a rough guide when deciding how much data you’ll need on a new mobile phone plan.

Mobile Network Apps

You can also check how much data you’ve used through your mobile network’s official application.

Compared to your smartphone’s built-in data usage monitor, this will sometimes give you a different figure. It’ll be the authoritative number that is used for billing purposes but is generally slightly less useful as a data point when choosing a new price plan (for instance, your mobile network’s numbers will exclude zero-rated data use and will not give you a full app-by-app breakdown).

You should use one of the following applications, as relevant for the mobile network you’re on:

Reducing Your Data Consumption

If you’d like to reduce your mobile data consumption, here are some of our top tips:

  • Use Wi-Fi whenever it’s available (e.g. at home, at work or outside). Any data that’s transferred over a wi-fi connection will not count towards the download limit on your mobile phone plan. For this reason, it’s a good idea to connect to wi-fi whenever you’re within range of an available network (e.g. at home, in the office or when you’re out at a supermarket or coffee shop). As this reduces your mobile data usage, you can save it for when you actually need it (e.g. when you’re outside with no access to wi-fi).
  • Download things like TV shows, podcasts, music playlists and maps before you leave home. Sometimes, you might be able to download content in advance whilst you’re still at home and connected to wi-fi. For instance, this feature is available on BBC iPlayer, on Netflix, on Spotify, on Google Maps and more. It requires a bit of planning in advance and some extra storage space on your smartphone but it will save you from needing to stream the content over a mobile data connection. This should normally give you smoother playback as well as reduced mobile data consumption.
  • Disable automatically playing videos on Facebook, Instagram and more. On social networking websites like Facebook and Instagram, videos located in your feed will often play automatically as soon as you scroll past. This consumes a lot of data as the videos are downloaded to your phone, even if you don’t actually want to watch them. See the step-by-step instructions on how to disable automatically playing videos on iPhone and Android devices.
  • Check your automatic software update settings and your photo & cloud storage backup settings. Normally, you’ll want to make sure automatic software updates only take place whilst you’re connected to a wi-fi network. On the iPhone, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and make sure the “Use Mobile Data” setting is switched off. Meanwhile, on Android, go to the Google Play store and tap on Menu > Settings > Auto-update apps. You’ll want to make sure this is set to “Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only”. If you use any photo or cloud storage backup apps (e.g. Apple iCloud or Google Photos), check to make sure this only backs up whilst you’re connected to wi-fi.
  • Use a web browser that compresses your data. For instance, Google Chrome can be used in Lite mode on Android. Alternatively, the Opera Mini browser is available for both iPhone and Android devices. These web browsers compress data before transferring it to you over the internet, hence reducing the amount of data required to load a web page. Please note that there may be some privacy implications in deciding to use one of these services. This is because they proxy all of your web traffic through another server.
  • Uninstall apps that use a lot of data, or restrict background data usage. Your smartphone’s data usage monitor should tell you how much data individual apps are consuming on your phone. You can uninstall data-hungry apps if you no longer want to use them. Alternatively, switch off “background app refresh” or “background data usage”. This will stop the application from being able to access the internet when aren’t inside and actively using the app (however, it can prevent things like notifications from working correctly). On the iPhone, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Meanwhile, on Android, go to Settings > Wireless & Network > Data Usage > Data Saver.


KB, MB, GB and TB (Kilobytes, Megabytes, Gigabytes and Terabytes)

There are 1,000 kilobytes in a megabyte (1000KB = 1MB) and 1,000 megabytes in a gigabyte (1000MB = 1GB). Occasionally, the concept of a terabyte has started creeping into usage: there are 1,000 gigabytes in a terabyte (1000GB = 1TB).

You can use the following table to convert between the four different measurements:

Measurement In Terabytes In Gigabytes In Megabytes In Kilobytes
Terabyte 1TB = 0.001 GB 1TB = 0.000 001 MB 1TB = 0.000 000 001 KB
Gigabyte 1GB = 0.001 TB 1GB = 1,000 MB 1GB = 1,000,000 KB
Megabyte 1MB = 0.000 001 TB 1MB = 0.001 GB 1MB = 1,000 KB
Kilobyte 1KB = 0.000 000 001 TB 1KB = 0.000 001 GB 1KB = 0.001 MB

For more information, see the full explanation from Wikipedia.

In general, most mobile data allowances are measured in terms of gigabytes (GB). However, on some lower-cost tariffs, the data allowance could be measured in megabytes (MB). For instance, some tariffs come with 500MB of data, which is equivalent to 0.5GB.

Unlimited Data

Some price plans come with unlimited data, meaning there’s no need to worry about how much data you’re using.

It’s important to read the terms and conditions when choosing an unlimited data plan. For instance, giffgaff offers Always-On data (this gives you unlimited downloads but only the first 80GB per month are at full 4G speeds). Alternatively, Three and SMARTY offer unlimited data with a fair usage policy of 1,000GB (1TB) per month.

For more information, see our full guide to unlimited data plans.

Zero-Rated Data

Some price plans come with zero-rated data (unlimited data for use on a range of services). On a zero-rated plan, data usage within certain apps and services will not be counted towards your normal monthly download limit.

To give an example, VOXI offers endless social media on plans from £10/month and endless video on plans from £15/month. You therefore shouldn’t count the usage of these inclusive applications when deciding how much data you need on your plan.

Download Speeds (Mbit/s)

Download speeds (the speed of your mobile internet connection) are sometimes compared to your monthly download allowance. However, it’s important to remember that download speeds are measured in megabits per second, as opposed to megabytes per second.

For instance, a 5 megabyte (5MB) music file actually consists of 40 megabits (as there are 8 bits in 1 byte). On a data connection that is 4Mbit/s, it would take you 10 seconds to download this 5MB file (5 * 8 / 4 = 10 seconds).

More Information

For more information, please refer to your mobile network’s website for information about the data plans they offer. You may also find it of interest to read our guide on recommended SIM cards and our in-depth article on mobile network download speeds.

Your Comments 449 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 449 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I enjoy the no worry of unlimited. I can easily read articles like this and get lost following all the branch off topics and then have no time left.
    I would really be in a pinch if I used up all my data without concern, reading about duck wing feather mites in birds of the pine forested area of Kanuckistan or somewhere, and have no time left to read a bus schedule the next day.
    The extra cost is worth it to me. Hell, I used 2gb just trying to read the comparison chart for 2gb.

  • I just bought Pay As You Go card (it said £15 25GB on it, but I paid £1 for the card).

    I then bought £10 top-up for it and put it on…… I was lazy and couldn’t be bothered to go downstairs to see what the internet code was and so went on to mobile data.

    17 minutes later my £10 was used up.

    This was my first experience with my new Smart Phone. I will be going back to my Samsung Flip phone which DOES only cost me £10 per month for unlimited calls and texts. I do NOT need internet and photos and all this malarkey – I was getting on just fine (Amazon is useful but if I remember to check when they will arrive I do not really need them).

    This is daylight robbery by 3 (and no doubt other companies are similar). I am utterly shocked!

    I don’t know what I did wrong, but I expect other people will have as well – what if I had been lost in a forest – 17 mins for £10 wouldn’t have been very long to get unlost and I may have been eaten by a wolf…….

    Back to my happy-clappy phone!


    • Another point from me – Angela – I only went on to Google and TESCO website to see if I could log on to the internet – don’t recall anything else, and I updated some settings on my new phone….. I didn’t upload or download anything or add any Word or Excel docs; I looked up the word ‘squirrel’ and I don’t think much else….

      I am off to the 3G phone shop tomorrow, but for me – this was a bit like a horror movie!!

      I am off to use my laptop now – modern technology I understand!

      Angela (again). 🙂

  • Why am I paying £16 for 12 GB by Three if I can get 30GB for roughly the same by Three. I want to listen to Audable books att night to help me sleep. I’ll be phoning them Monday to change my data allowance. I don’t have WiFi though so hope that’s not an issue as many talk as if we all have WiFi we all do not.
    Thank you for your wise words.

    • I’ve been looking through the providers plans and some are shocking. EE charge £19 for 8GB yet Smarty charge about £6for 8GB. I had Voxi, £10.00 a month for 30GB but I just read they are now charging £2.00 a day for EU roaming, so I’ve just cancelled them and joined Smarty on their £12.00 a month for 100GB plan with free EU roaming, Smarty also do a good £10.00 a month deal. 100GB a month works out at 3.2GB per day, which is 6 hours of movies worth everyday, more than enough for me. I also have WiFi at home, so I’m going to just use mobile data exclusively for the next month and see exactly how much data I use and then choose a plan from there, I may only need 10GB along with my WiFi. We’ll see.

  • eshvar uikey said:

    If your using any social medias like it ig FB etc. Then you should make sure when you are watching videos you are putting the resolution to sd and don’t open social medias that much also if you are using zoom that may be why because zoom takes minimum 1gig per hour on a 1on1 call and minimum 2 gigs per hour on group meetings

  • Dobbin47, Sussex, UK. said:

    Dear Ken,

    The information on tariffs which you provide here is sooo helpful. Thank you so much for all your hard work on your website. God bless you.

  • Michael A Clark said:

    I’m burning up 1gig+ of data per day on my ipad, how is this possible? i purchase load for my tablet and use up only one gig in the eight days it lasts, and I use the tab for the same reasons as the ipad.

    • Turn off background app refresh, in fact turn everything off that talks to the internet in the background. Also watch and upload HD videos on WIFI and not mobile data networks. Also do not update your apps while on mobile network, 5 app updates will use up 1G per day no problem!

    • Hi Christopher,
      Thanks for your comment.
      SD (standard definition) is typically 480p.
      HD (high definition) is typically 720p.
      Full HD is typically 1080p.
      Hope this helps,

      • Do you have a mobile plan? If you go over your mobile plan then you have to pay for extra, and depending on the company the price of extra is much higher than buying a higher data plan.

        110 GB for Netflix and gaming + possibly other stuff is normal.

        • Alexandra Carvalhaes replied:

          If your using any social medias like it ig FB etc. Then you should make sure when you are watching videos you are putting the resolution to sd and don’t open social medias that much also if you are using zoom that may be why because zoom takes minimum 1gig per hour on a 1on1 call and minimum 2 gigs per hour on group meetings

      • I pay around $14 a month for 100GB of data, plus unlimited calls and text messages, so $111 is incredibley expensive!!!!!

  • I have been using a Mobile Hotspot since working from home this year. I buy 5GB of data and that has lasted me up to one month. Recently, however, I am only getting 5 working days out of my plan. I have not increased my internet activity at all. I simply check my Oulook email and calendar for my work. Do you know what the issue may be?

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Great question! There are lots of things that might be using data, including automatic software updates on your computer. I’d recommend following the instructions here to see how much data each app on your laptop has used. This will allow you to diagnose the reason for your data allowance disappearing so quickly.
      Hope this helps,

  • I live in a rural area and do not get but approx 5 hrs of video per month, loading, spinning, etc… after complains for over a year, was told today… even if not using your other devices Hughes Net still gathers usage from them, not as much as watching a video but does use even if other devices are not in use.???? While on the phone to HughesNet, today watched what was left of my service plan … go from 5% to dropping to 2% then to 1% in an hours time, explain that to me!

  • Bruh I wanna know why i bought 100gb for £20 and use 700Mb and it randomly cut out now it’s not working again i don’t even know why?! Is there like a daily limit or something cause if there is I want it off!

    • Hi Hayz,
      Thanks for your comment. There shouldn’t normally be a daily usage on your usage – only a monthly limit applies. It’s probably worth getting in touch with your mobile network to enquire about the cut-outs in service you’re experiencing.

  • Violet Gibson said:

    This site was so informative. I am a visual person, so I have to see something to understand it. Your description of what a 1 GB was and how big it is, thank you, Now I understand. I do not need a reply

    • Daryl Price replied:

      Took the words right of my mouth. I too am a visual person, and this site has clarified more for me than anything else I have seen or read.
      Thanks for your post .I know now I am not the only one..lol

      FYI .I am a Mrs not a Mr..with a name like Daryl, I am always assumed to be male.

  • Carole Gough said:

    Thanks so much – I had no idea of how much 2gb of data would give me – so this was really helpful and sounds just what I need for a work phone. Thanks again for helping me with the decision.

  • Kohl Mahoney said:

    Thank you! I just hit 100gb of data (I don’t have internet and am always on my phone). Thankfully I have unlimited data.

    • How long did it take you to use 100gb? I have just gone on to the 100gb per month for £12.00 a month with Smarty, their unlimited is £20 a month, but I have WiFi at home, so I don’t know if I’ll even in use that much? This month, between using WiFi and mobile data, I’ve used 4gb only of data.

  • Thank you for breaking that down. You are a God send. My gosh though, signing up for phone service shouldn’t be as complicated as shopping for a car; don’t you think? Ridiculous. Thank you for making it easier though.

  • hi can anyone tell me if I buy more data for a pound how long will that last if I am watching a film its the first time I have used a mini dongle and I used all my data so can any one explain thankssa

  • Karen Richards said:

    Hi Ken

    May I say thank you for explaining in Plain English how long 2G of data lasts. Ive just renewed my contract and got 2G data on my contract plus another 2G which will come as a credit card for me to load if needed. Wasen’t quite sure what was meant by this and did not want to seem thick. I had to give the company a password I would use to activate this card.

  • Hi Ken…I rue the day I introduced my mother to words with friends. She is addicted and plays hours everyday. I have her on our shared plan, 3 phones with 60 gigs. Should be plenty but several times she has used up our gigs(I refuse to buy additional) my husband & I can & do use wi fi when at home or available. My question is how many hours of game play is one gig? Can’t find that info anywhere. I’m about to switch her to her own plan & she can deal with it. Thanks.

    • Hi Kyleen,
      Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this as it depends very much on the game! The best way to find out is by following the instructions here. That should allow you to see a breakdown of how much data each application is using, and how much is being used by Words with Friends. You can then divide that the number of hours she spends playing the game, to get an approximate “data usage per hour” if required. I must say, however, I’m incredibly doubtful that Words With Friends would use 60GB per month – it’s possible you’ll find another culprit when you look!

  • Hi Ken,
    I have just bought my first smart phone (I’m a very old girl!) and a monthly SIM card, both online. The plan said 2GB data – I didn’t have the faintest idea what that actually meant! But now I do. I thought about going into my local phone shop but couldn’t face the pitying looks of the staff.
    But now I don’t have to thanks to your wonderfully clear explanation. Thank you, Ken!

  • I have only read a few sentences here but have written down kenstechtips.com so I can read your advice…I was at my wit’s end,as I usually am for the last few years…I do trust my monthly contract with 02 but as I have not upgraded last time with my phone and old iPad Air…and REFUSE TO HAVE WIFI CONNECTION FOR YEARS NOW…I am struggling to understand how to update my old fashioned mobile and iPad…I have no time to go see a guru at my local O2,who have always sorted out their best deal for my needs BUT I always come home and think …I am not stupid,just need a simple explanation,I read lots via Google but never quite get my answers…I now am relying on your website to provide the advice I need but will not be complaining if I get no result…I am content just understanding the few words I read here….no need for anyone who reads this to reply,thank you for reading my comments…Best Regards,Deborah

    • Hi Deborah,
      Thanks for taking the time to write and to leave me a comment. I’m pleased that the website has been useful – do let me know if there’s anything else I can help out with explaining!

  • Hi, I have just moved to a temporary apartment (without broadband) and have been using my phone as wifi hotspot to use my 13″ laptop to browse the net and stream tv.

    This has used up my data allowance very fast. Does using the phone as wifi hotspot use much more data up (than using on the phone)?

    What is my best plan for continuing to use my phone as a wifi hotspot tether? How much data would I need for intensively browsing the net (say 10 hours a day sometimes) and, say, streaming 2 hours of TV per night, and 3 hours podcasts?

    Is there some way around the slow speed I am getting through tethering – and the constant buffering? A boost/trick of some kind? Should it be happening?

    I am with O2 on a rolling month by month sim only contract. Their bolt-ons seem expensive – £30 for 12GB and I’ve no idea if that’s enough! Do I need unlimited GB bolt-on? Can I get that? I can’t find online, but they offer it on some contracts and I have found in the past you can custom plans if you know what to ask for, and how to ask for it!

    I have an iphone and macbook pro. My current O2 contract that I want to stick with, but adjust for more data, is around £25 a month.

    Huge thanks.

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, using your mobile phone as a hotspot is likely to consume data very quickly if you’re using it for activities like streaming 2 hours of TV and browsing the internet for 10 hours per day!
      How long do you expect to be staying in the temporary apartment? If it’s likely going to be more than one or two months, I’d recommend a 4G or 5G home broadband service (or buying your own router and setting one up to that effect). That will give you far better performance than tethering from a smartphone (hopefully, including better speeds and stronger wi-fi coverage).
      With regards to SIM-only deals, I’d suggest getting an unlimited data SIM card. You can currently get an unlimited data SIM card from as little as £18/month (or £20/month on a one-month rolling basis with SMARTY who use coverage from Three).
      Hope this helps,

      • Hello

        Firstly, a big thank you to S Ellis for their initial question, and a huge thank you to you Ken for your response.

        I’m currently looking into no contract unlimited SIM card packages to use as a hotspot/tether instead of a broadband 2 year contract because I don’t know what will happen in those 2 years.

        I don’t want to watch t.v., Netflix or YouTube on my laptop. I haven’t used the internet on my laptop for 26 months so it needs a lot of updating. Primarily I just want to use the internet on a larger screen.

        I love your website and thank you for your very indepth information and advice. You have certainly helped me out a lot.

        With thanks.

        Cee Jay.

  • Hi Ken.
    Thanks so much for the info.
    Do these same figures apply when you tether your laptop from your phone?
    I’m about to get a 100gb 12 month contract, as I’m going to be living in my van for a while.
    I’ll be doing design work from my laptop in the day, uploading large files and emailing clients, then probably watching Netflix in the evening for an hour or so.
    Is more GB used when tethering? Should I go for unlimited data?
    Thank you!

    • Hi M,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the same figures apply when you’re tethering from a laptop. However, it’s possible that some additional data is consumed e.g. because your videos stream in higher-quality due to the larger screen size. Software updates on your laptop could also cause some additional usage.
      With regards to choosing between 100GB and unlimited data, it’s really difficult to say! Certainly, if the price difference is fairly small, it’s worth going for unlimited data to give you the total piece of mind & so you never need to worry about it again. Currently, you can get unlimited data for £18/month – I’m not sure how this compares to the cost of your 100GB deal.

  • H i would just like to thank you for the information I have just read about the GB yours has been the first detailed information that wasn’t full of gobbledygook I found you so easy to understand so straight forward so thank you

  • Learning so much reading the previous comments/replies. I have an employee who has a Verizon Jetpack Mifi 8800L and has currently used 101GB according to our bill. Is this excessive considering his work is being out in the field for short periods of time? The person has an Apple iPhone Xs Max 512GB. They track water wells but those have routers and transmit data to and from. We are a small entity and I don’t see how they can run this much data. 7-4pm shift, M-F with some weekend duties but we do not pay overtime and they get time off for overages. Your Data table is very eye opening. Is all that type of usage included in 100GB or is “or” implied for one or the other usage type?
    Thanks Ken!

    • Hi Briana,
      101GB of data usage certainly isn’t unheard of, especially if the device is being used for things like streaming video from the internet (TV, movies, etc). The table here should allow you to estimate total data usage based on number of different activities.

  • Hi Ken, what great information you provide here! Hope you can help with my question? I have an iPad wifi+cellular, I have not yet got a Sim card for it, I will be travelling out of the uk to Europe and will be needing data as will be teaching esl online a couple of hours a day for 1 week ( I can’t risk data running out in the middle of a lesson, this worries me) can you recommend anything for me eg. provider, how much data roughly? I don’t want to commit to a monthly contract. Any advice appreciated thank you.

    • Hi Terri,
      Thanks for your comment. At the moment, I’d probably recommend getting a SIM card from VOXI (part of Vodafone). The reason for this is they allow you to use your full data allowance when travelling in Europe (except on their unlimited data plan), and they offer full-speed 4G roaming unlike some other mobile networks. You can pay £20 for 45GB of data and this works on a pre-paid basis (so no need to undergo a credit check and no need to sign up for a contract as there’s no obligation to renew your plan after the first month).
      Hope this helps,

      • Thanks so much for your helpful advice and your speedy reply to my questions! It’s so good to know you can get support and advice in these matters (someone like me who has no knowledge on these matters)
        I have followed your advice and received my free sim card today from VOXI hopefully it’s the right one! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge 🙂

  • Ruth Ann Ann Lake said:

    Hi Ken, thanks for publishing this for helping others. I was trying to figure out if my data traffic plan offered by my provider here in France was going to be enough for an upcoming trip to a small British island in the Caribbean. I am apparently covered for up to 60 giga and I will be there a week. From what I understand from your chart, it should be more than enough for e mails, downloads of normal sized documents (2-20 pages) but maybe ??? not a big power point file. And it should be enough for a few hours 2-10 maybe (???) of streaming as I like to watch the news from Europe on the internet when hanging out between one thing and another.

    • Hi Ruth,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, a 60GB data allowance should certainly be fine for emails, downloading some documents, etc. It should also allow you to use a decent amount of streaming. I’d imagine 10 hours should be fine unless you’re streaming in exceptionally high quality (4K UHD, etc)!
      I would, however, keep an eye out for any fair usage policies, as some mobile networks may not allow you to use the entirety of your data allowance when abroad.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi there
    Just wanted to say thank you for providing such a clear and concise explanation of phone usage….I’ve been paying too much for ages!

  • Hi Ken,
    I am using a pay as you go SIM card from Hong Kong in China for roaming and I can’t help but noticed that the data seems to be consumed quicker in China than when I use it in Hong Kong – where the SIM card was originally from- and the volume of data seems to be more than usage in Hong kong. Is that normal or is it the Chinese network calculations?
    In all cases I find the network in Hong Kong is faster than those in mainland China. Also I don’t use VPN.

    • Hi there,
      The amount of data consumed shouldn’t really depend on which country you’re in. There can sometimes be an indirect effect (e.g. a faster connection speed leading to higher-quality video streaming) but this doesn’t sound like what is happening in your case? Alternatively, your usage patterns may have changed or something like background app updates could be causing increased data usage. If you like, you can compare the figures reported by your phone to those that are reported by the mobile network.

  • I dont use use my phone alot for texts or calls but do watch 4 to 5 films a week and probably use the inter net a couple of hours a day , which woul be the best sim only deal for me.
    Thankyou in advance

    • Hi Paul,
      It’s worth spending a bit of time to figure out how much data you currently use (ideally, follow the instructions here to get to a number). That will allow you to then search for the best value SIM-only deal.
      If I were to hazard a guess, you’d probably be a fairly high data user if you’re streaming 4 to 5 films per week (I’d estimate approximately 80GB per month for this streaming alone, assuming you’re streaming in HD quality). You’re probably, therefore, best off with an unlimited data plan (available from approximately £20/month).

  • Hello,
    When my data usage information (provided by my mobile provider) reads that I use 0.00001 GB is the 0.00001 GB = (equal to) 1GB or is this reading as a percentage of a GB?

    Meaning, am I using 1GB every time I see 0.00001 GB or am I misunderstanding?

    Please help me understand. Thank you.

  • I’ve an Arizona tv and use a mobile WiFi device. I put 4gb sim but it seems to have used this in half hour . Is this the norm when streaming live tv? I bought the device as we don’t have WiFi but do have mobile signal

    • Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for your comment. Do you know bitrate the TV service is streaming at? Assuming you’re watching a HD-quality stream, I’d normally expect it to use around 2-3GB per hour but this can vary based on the service. Therefore, a 4GB SIM card probably isn’t going to go very far with TV streaming!

  • Hi Ken,
    I am with Vodafone unlimited data MAX
    and I wonder how much data I can use without my speeds being throttled and before I get blocked for using too much data and believed using it for business purposes. Thanks Ken please respond.

  • Thanks for another helpful article. Can i suggest using BitMeter if people want to track what they’re really using. I’ve just established that, since Jan 2019 – Aug 2019, I’ve averaged about 50GB a month (since i’m at home and online all day, for 6 days out of any 7).

    BitMeter is here http://codebox.org.uk/pages/bitmeteros

  • Hi Ken,
    Thank you for defining everything in a basic and understanding format! This was really helpful for my deciding which plan to purchase.

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading this. It clears up loads of questions I always had about data usage. I’ Off to change my wife’s phone this morning. Far more informed and confident I’ll find what she needs. Thank you so much…

    • Hi Mike,
      You’re right – some mobile networks will actually give you 1024MB rather than 1000MB when you buy a 1GB data plan. This is actually a good thing for consumers in that you’ll get 2.4% more data at no extra charge. Despite the fact that 1GB is precisely defined as 1000MB, many people still think of it as 1024MB. For this reason, many networks err on the side of caution and give customers a data allowance based on the higher amount.

  • It is really good that someone has taken the time to explain the complex world of data, can be so confusing

  • Wasn’t sure how mobile data worked and now reading has explained so much about how I will use my data and when using wifi and what apps may use more data than others. Much more informed now on what data plan to use in the future. This is an excellent way to inform people of data use thaml you for sharing

  • Lewis Camerson said:

    This article shows false information. 1,000 Kilobytes does NOT equal 1 Megabyte.
    In fact, 1,024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte.

    • Hi Lewis,
      Thanks for the feedback! You’ll see this defined a little bit differently in different places but I tend to follow the ISO/IEC definition. With this definition:
      1,000 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte (1 MB)
      1,024 Kilobytes = 1 Mebibyte (1 MiB)
      Most hardware & software providers have switched over to this new standard, though in practice the mobile networks are often a little bit flexible here (e.g. if they advertise 1GB per month, they’ll normally allow you to use up to 1,024MB which is of course beneficial to the consumer).
      Hope this helps,

  • Thanks Ken for the information given on this very helpful site. It helped me assess how much data I needed fo a new smart phone, without trying to sell me a network provider.
    Good advice and useful impartial information for the tech shy user, many thanks.

  • Ulysses Grant said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thank you for creating a website like this. It has indeed helped a lot of people. I have a question though. In April, will be travelling with my wife to London. I will definitely need a data plan for this trip. While I am from Canada, it is not feasible for me to roam my data. I noticed O2 has some good deal for a prepaid plan that has 4GB data. My friend suggested Vodafone prepaid. We will be travelling mostly around London and Edinburgh. Any suggestion on inexpensive plan but reliable signal? I am fine with spending around £20? Thank you again!

    • Hi Ulysses,
      Thanks for your comment and glad you found the website to be useful! You can see my in-depth guide on Pay As You Go bundle here. In short, I think most of the major networks should give you a suitable deal. I think coverage should also be fine across the major networks in London and Edinburgh, though if you want to double-check for the places where you’re staying, it might be worth trying some of the coverage checker tools here.

  • Six months ago i moved from Vodafone to EE. Since then my data usage has gone up from 500Mb a month, to pretty much 5Gb a month. I use my phone for approx 45 mins / 1hr a day on the way to and from work. And maybe 1/2 an hour during the day whilst on lunch.

    I might stream, one 5 minute You Tube video a day, but other than that it’s very lightly used, browsing BBC, or a couple of other websites. I just can’t get my head around where all this extra usage is coming from. At home i’m on the Wi-Fi. My phone is set not to roam, photos only upload over WiFi etc etc I’m thinking maybe OneDrive might be the culprit.

    My phones internal counter pretty much tallies with what EE says, but nevertheless i’m completely bamboozled.

    • Hi Sean,
      Thanks for your comment. It is odd that your data usage has increased so much. Have you tried using your smartphone’s data usage monitor to find out which application has been consuming all the data? Once you’ve done that, you should be able to take action accordingly (e.g. by uninstalling the app or by changing your settings).

  • I’m in southwest France and have just signed up to Free.fr’s new mobile plan. As far as data is concerned, for 19.99 euro a month (about £14) I get a 50 Gb (or Gio as Free call it) allowance. Beyond that, my broadband will be throttled. As I live in the middle of nowhere and copper wire has been giving me only around 750 Kbps, this new plan has been a godsend and I am using the SIM in a Netgear AC785 Aircard which is docked into Netgear DC113A docking station with the latter connected via an Ethernet cable to a TP-Link wi-fi access point. So I now have apx. 70 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload whci is somewhat better than 750 Kbps!

    The Aircard has recorded data usage of 19.5 Gb over a period of 15 days, which seems about right to me as I downloaded a 5Gb TomTom map to my phone via this Hotspot, and also a 5Gb update to my TomTom Go during this period. However, according to my account at Free Mobile (which shows me an always up to date record of phone, SMS, MMS and data consumption), I’ve used only 7.36 Gb and have almost 43 Gb left for use over the next 15 days.

    How can this be? Do you think I’m just lucky and that Free are not counting the data usage properly? Or is there something I’m missing in the technicalities somewhere?

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you’re getting a really good deal from Free in France! There are only three things I’m able to think of:
      1) It might be possible there’s a delay in accounting for your data usage (sometimes it will take a while to show up on your account).
      2) Your billing period might have reset in this time.
      3) You might be using some compression software which reduces the amount of data sent over the network.
      Apart from that, I’m not really sure why the data is being accounted for like this!

      • Peter Evans replied:

        OK, thanks. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and wait and see what happens at the end of this billing period in two weeks time!

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment. I think SMS and MMS are certainly becoming greatly de-emphasised… myself, I haven’t sent a text message in years! Over-the-top apps (e.g. WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger) are certainly replacing a lot of traditional SMS & MMS traffic. I think SMS & MMS will continue to have a place going forward but this will mainly be for receiving notifications (e.g. from your bank, mobile network, parcel delivery company, etc) as also as a backup for when other options aren’t available. When choosing a new plan, I’d certainly put a lot more emphasis nowadays on the data.

  • haha or you can just go on three, then get unlimited everything cheaper than any other network lol!! SIMO and contract is better than any other network with free 4G no matter what… Apparently giving unlimited free 4G didn’t make “business sense” to EE and other networks but Three said f**k it we giving it free ;D love three me like

  • Hi Ken, although I merely stumbled on your web site; thank you for these intuitive and captivating pages, I’ve enjoyed a few hours reading through the exhaustive content (please accept this as a compliment) and will continue to read/catch up on this little goldmine of advice and interaction.
    Best wishes

  • hi Ken do you cover apple ipad 3G cellular/wifi questions? i do hope so.
    i am a HGV driver and can wait around for hours waiting to be loaded and unloaded as long as 4 hours so my ipad is used to browse the internet and watch TV and sometimes a film on Showbox Pro i am contract on EE £20 p/m but they have taken as much as £52 what is using the data most do you think? and is there a better deal out there for me.
    thanks in advance

  • John Pinkerton said:

    Thanks Ken — and apologies for not being specific about the requirements. Having been around the world a few times, I am surprised to find a mobile provider that disallows tethering *and* charges for over runs of the package limits rather than drastic reduction in speed.

    You confirm what I found — the giffgaff 5Gbs @3G package, but you add the option of early renewal which might make sense if the 30 days only commences when the package is activated, not when it is bought. Any clarity on this small but vital detail ? 😉

    Congratulations on being the best helpdesk for UK mobile networks anyone could wish for. I have passed your url on to so many people now….

    Best regards,

    • Hi John,
      With giffgaff goodybags, the 30 days commence from when you buy the goodybag. However, it’s perfectly possible to top-up your SIM card and to leave the money as credit until you want to start a goodybag. When topping up, choose the option to leave it as credit… then later you can log-in to the my giffgaff website to start the goodybag when you actually want it 🙂

  • John Pinkerton said:

    Hi — and firstly thanks for the great reviews – I’ve been reading a lot of the stuff and you seem to know your way around the topic very well 🙂

    I have an existing Orange sim but only use it for text and calls on PAYG. I would like a package for PAYG which will allow me text and calls and a data limit of about 4Gbs/30 days which will just slow down when it goes over the limit — not charge me lots per MB. This is typical in other countries, but it seems that UK networks have resisted it. Any advice? My existing number is not precious — I can change number or network as needed, but I do need good geographic coverage — I don’t care about population coverage.

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment: it’s great to know you’ve found the website to be helpful! Unfortunately, as you say, most UK networks stop your data connection once you go over your monthly data allowance. The good news, however, is you should be able to pick up a fairly decent package with lots of data. Three’s Pay As You Go service is a really good example: it’s £15/month for unlimited 4G data, 300 minutes and 3000 texts. There are no data limits so you’ll never be charged for extra data on a per-megabyte basis. giffgaff is another Pay As You Go network worth investigating (£20/month for unlimited 3G data, 2000 minutes and unlimited texts). giffgaff uses coverage from O2.
      With regards to transferring your phone number, it’s actually really easy to do this! You can follow my guide here for step-by-step instructions.
      Hope this helps 🙂

      • John Pinkerton replied:

        Thanks for your reply Ken 🙂

        Unfortunately both the providers you mention do not allow tethering on their unlimited data offerings. I’m not entirely sure about the rules for packages of something like 5-7Gbs per month, but reading what small print I can find leads me to believe that tethering is a no-no. The other issue is that coverage of the coast of UK is not great when away from the more heavily populated areas. Perhaps you can advise me further, the websites of these providers are like a maze designed by a martian 🙁

        I really do not want to take a contract, unless I can get one for maybe 3 months.

        Thanks for you input, and I hope the answers will help others in a similar fix.

        Best regards,

        • Hi John,
          You’re right – you can’t tether on either of the packages (sorry, I didn’t know you were looking for a tariff with tethering!). For a quick guide on which networks you’re able to tether from, you can see the article I’ve written here. At present, the cheapest suitable deal is £15/month for 5GB of 3G data including tethering (giffgaff Pay As You Go). You’ll be charged extra for going over the 5GB limit but you’re able to avoid this by renewing the package early. For more than 5GB/month of tetherable data, you’ll probably need to get a contract (e.g. £25/month for 8GB, £27.20/month for 10GB).

  • I am not an avid smartphone user but I have been gifted a One Plus One phone which is a huge upgrade from my current Nokia 301 for which I have a top up arrangement with Tesco Mobile. It suits me as I make very few calls if at all. i am looking for a bundle that is very low on minutes and texts but to use it mainly for internet access and emails.

    I would welcome your recommendations


  • hi Ken, just new to all this ,have 250mb a month and all i want is to look up the odd thing in google,
    (when trying to settle arguments in the pub etc) not interested in streaming vids or the like but will be sending a few photos via texts to friends, (not via facebook or the like) will 250 be enough? cheers kevin

  • I’m slightly confused, because you recommend choosing a tariff which provides around 2Gb/month, based on average consumption (ie for all users). The benchmark figure of 2Gb/month averages out at 67Mb/day, but in your review of the Three network an average daily consumption of 10Mb has been used. Please explain how the difference between the two averages of 67Mb/day and 10Mb/day has come about.

    • Hi Stewart,
      Great question! The difference between the 10MB and 67MB figures is from the explosion in mobile data usage over the past few years (our review of Three was written a little while ago). My 2GB recommendation is based on statistics here from Three and EE. The other reason is data usage varies greatly depending on the handset and plan. Pay Monthly customers getting a new contract tend to use more data than Pay As You Go customers. They’ll also need to forecast their mobile data usage in 24 months time (a Pay As You Go customer can simply & easily change their tariff when they need more data).
      Hope this helps,

  • Many thanks Ken for an excellent, informative article. Especially re. tethering. EE messed up,by home broadband connection & left me without wi fi for the next three weeks (terrible, terrible customer service BTW), so good to learn from your article how much email, banking, browsing etc will cost via tethering. You,would have thought they might have offered me some extra data but no. Would not recommend EE/orange to anyone going forward. Thanks again for your time and effort. Keep up the good work!

  • Great article. Succinctly put. But I’m still unclear how much usage my apps use up when I’m running them.
    I’m specifically interested in using Google Maps to travel around cities – I use it to find buses and to walk around. It’s great but I now think it’s using up loads of internet usage, given that I can have it on for over an hour at a time. The same might go for an App called Endomondo which tells me how far I’ve been walking around the countryside.
    How can I tell how much these apps are costing me? I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S2.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Bruce,
      Thanks for your feedback on the article! My general feeling is that Google Maps shouldn’t use an extraordinary amount of data (it’s not the amount of time you’re using the app for, it’s more how many different places you’re viewing the maps for). Certainly, if you’re only travelling around in a city then the data usage shouldn’t be much more than a couple of megabytes. To give you an idea, I just downloaded most of Central London using Google Maps… it came to 7MB of data in total (after the first download, it’s saved on your phone for viewing offline).
      If you’d like to see how much data is actually being used by the apps on your phone, open the Settings app followed by ‘Data Usage’. If you scroll down, all of your data usage should be split up on an app-by-app basis.
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi

    My children tell me the Nokia Lumia 635 is a decent phone for them and a contract under £10 a month seems reasonable. The best deals I can find have 500MB per month. Is that generally enough (we have home wifi)? Also, if they were to lose the phone what is my comeback on a 24-month contract?, please?


    • Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. The Lumia 635 is a fairly decent handset: 500MB would probably be enough providing they use wi-fi at home and providing they avoid certain activities on 3G (e.g. downloading music and watching online videos). One thing to also be aware of is any overage charges from the network (e.g. if your children go over the monthly allowance on the phone, would you be charged automatically and if so, how much?). If the phone gets lost during the 24 months, you would have to buy a new one (either SIM-free or by ending your contract early).

  • This was very informational. I have never had a data limit and I was trying to see if I really needed to pay the additional $10/mth for one more GB. Thank you for breaking this down. I will definitely refer others to this site.

  • what a fantastic site, and great advice from you on all subjects,
    many thanks for clearing up a load of mysteries for me,
    thanks again for your time

  • Hi there,

    Wonder if you can help. I’m considering getting a MiFi device so that we’re able to use two laptops at once without a phoneline. However, I’m confused with what the deal is. It says “You will get Unlimited browsing (surfing) and 500mb (1/2 GB) of data (streaming or downloading) every month for 12 months!”

    How do you know what counts towards downloads as I though internet browsing uses data?

    We currently use around 10GB of data each month, download about 10 songs a month, 40 film trailers and other then that just use it for browsing.

    Thanks for your help

    • Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment! I’m also a little bit confused about what this actually means and how they distinguish between surfing & downloading. Could you kindly let me know which network is offering the deal mentioned? I’ll try and investigate this a little bit further!

  • Hi Ken,
    I just Googled “the difference between 500 MB and 1 GB.” Your article is the first to come up and I just wanted to say thank you so much. I completely understand now the difference of data and usage and what the heck everyone is talking about. I live in America and I wan to assume that it all works the same here as well. But, you know what they say about assuming. So, is it safe to compare UK usage to American usage? Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Heather,
      You’ll be glad to know that mobile data is exactly the same on both sides of the Atlantic! The figures listed here apply just as well when using your phone in the US and when using your phone in the UK 🙂
      Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ken,
    I’ve just had an upgrade to Kestrel 4G Smarphone with EE – with 500MB data. I’m an avid user of twitter, does it eat into the data allowance if I keep it open in the background all day?

    Also use my phone to listen to FM Radio on the daily commute.
    I naturally refer to my home’s wi-fi at night.


    • Hi Dylan,
      Thanks for your comment. The Twitter app should use little or minimal data when you leave it running in the background. It’ll mainly be using data when you actively read tweets (particularly if open a tweet contains a picture or a vine).
      With regards to FM radio, it won’t use any of your mobile data. You’ll only need data when listening to online radio (e.g. using iPlayer Radio or another radio app). Your phone’s built-in FM radio app is totally data-free (perfect for anyone with a limited download allowance!)
      Hope this helps,

  • Hello~ I have been looking at my son’s data usage and everyday he has been using at least 106.7000 MB’s and sometimes even higher. Can FACETIME use this many MB’s? Websites??

    • Hi Karen,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re using FaceTime over mobile/cellular data, it will consume data at a very fast rate (around 3-4MB per minute). Expect to use around 240MB for every hour spent making a FaceTime video call. With regards to web browsing, this can also play a significant role in mobile data consumption. Expect to use around 35MB for every hour spent browsing the web. To reduce your data consumption, it’s always worth using FaceTime on a wi-fi connection. It’s also good to browse over wi-fi if the phone is being used at home.
      Hope this helps,

  • I stopped in a Sprint store. They gave a wi-fi box for 100 dollars with 50 dollars rebate. You can have 1GB or up to 12 gigs. The 12GB package is 80 dollars a month. Now AT&T has a hotspot. Its data is what is in your Family share plan and is 15 dollars a month just to own.
    It sounds to me like the Sprint has something going here. Or am I wrong… what is the difference between wi-fi and data usage? What’s the difference between wi-fi and a hotspot?
    thank you, patty

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not 100% clear how the two deals compare: from the sounds of your comment Sprint is providing a mobile broadband service complete with a portable wi-fi hotspot whereas AT&T is simply allowing you to tether from your phone. They’re slightly different things (on the latter option, you use your existing data plan & the smartphone you already have) but achieve the same outcome i.e. being able to use the internet whilst on-the-go. The two guides I’ve linked to should help to explain the difference 🙂
      Hope this helps,

  • very useful summary, thanks Ken.

    I’m starting from the other end and have an idea for an app. I need to calculate likely data use from a hosting POV. Any thoughts on best way to do this?

    • Hi Pat,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s really difficult to say the likely data usage when hosting an application: it really depends on what resources will be downloaded from the server (presumably, the app itself will come from elsewhere e.g. iTunes or Google Play). To gain an estimate, I’d probably run the app a couple of times and then multiply the data usage by the expected number of users.

  • Geraint Williams said:

    Many thanks for your reply I will certainly try that. Not being such a tech whizz will I be able to switch off the automatic updates?

    • Hi Geraint,
      If it turns out that Automatic Updates are indeed responsible for the high data usage, you can turn it off using the instructions here. I would only recommend following this guide if you’re sure the automatic updates are causing the data usage (otherwise, it’ll make your laptop less secure and won’t actually reduce the amount of data used).

  • Geraint Williams said:

    Need some help! I have a lap top but no phone line so connect to the internet through a mobile wi fi device with O2. I have a monthly data allowance of 3gb. When I connect the lap top to the mobile wi-fi I start using lts and lots of data straight away even before accessing pages or apps etc. it can use between 50mb and 100mb within minutes! My mobile wifi device shows that only my lap top is connected so isn’t another device using the data. Any ideas? Are there apps automatically updating? I’ve used 1.2gb of data in 4 days! I work all day and only use it for hour or so at night and not even been streaming videos or music, where is my data going!?

    • Hi Geraint,
      Thanks for your comment. One danger of tethering or using mobile broadband is that your laptop will often use data without you doing anything. Common culprits are automatic software updates (e.g. Windows Update, anti-virus definitions, Firefox or Chrome) and cloud storage sync (e.g. OneDrive or Dropbox). The easiest way to find the offending application is to press Ctrl+Alt+Del followed by “Start Task Manager”. On the “Performance” tab, click on “Resource Monitor”. Underneath the “Network” heading, you’ll see a list of applications currently using data.
      Hope this helps!

  • Great and very informative article, thank you! I have a few questions.

    I am in the process of buying a new phone (samsung galaxy S5) off of a contract. The two available options of data usage are 1gb and the 3gb per month. I’m wondering whether 1gb is enough for a whole month, or if it’s worth paying more (around 200$ more) for 3gb?

    I always use wifi at home, & I don’t use apps such as spotify, skype, facebook etc. Also Most of my time on the internet is spent reading articles or watching short vids etc.


    • Hi lelouch,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s difficult to know without seeing exactly how you use your phone – I’d say if you’re using wi-fi at home and if you’re not using data-intensive apps, 1GB per month should be sufficient for your usage. That said, you mention you often watch videos. This can quickly deplete the amount of available data (two hours of video per month or 4 minutes per day will use up the entirety of 1GB). Perhaps the best indication is to see how much data you currently use on your old plan? See the heading “How do I find out how much data I currently use?” in the article above.
      Hope this helps!

  • Thank you , got my first mobile phone . Was wondering what the 500 MB data limit was about. From reading this article , I understand that no data is used when connecting through WiFi , which if true is AWESOME in my situation. Great article , really appreciated !!

  • 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?


    • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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!

  • 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.


  • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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?

    • 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!


  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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

  • 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?

    • 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,


  • 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


    • 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).



    • Hi there,

      Thanks for the comment! According to the IEC definition, a megabyte is 1000 kilobytes whereas a mebibyte is 1024 kilobytes. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebibyte 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,


  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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).

    • 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.


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

    Annie B

  • 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 😉

  • 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

  • "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.

  • 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!!

    • 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,


  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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!!!

    • 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,


  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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,

    • 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.


  • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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 threading.so i researched the net and found that simple way was to email them to myself.i noticed that my txt msg changed to MMS.so 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 forever.how 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

    • 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,


  • 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.

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

  • 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

  • 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!)

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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,


  • @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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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!


  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.


  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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.

    • 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,


  • 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

    • 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!


  • 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.

  • 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)

    • 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,


  • Hi
    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

  • 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

    • 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,


  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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

    • 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,


  • 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!

    • 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.


  • 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?

  • 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?


  • 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…………..

  • 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?

    • 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!


  • 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!

  • 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 phone..am i entitled to ask for the money back?

    • 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!


  • 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?

  • 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

    • 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?


      • ken,
        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 ?


  • 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

  • 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!

    • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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?

  • 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!


    • 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.


  • 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?

    • 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!


  • 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

    • Hi,

      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 🙂


  • 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

    • 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,


  • 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.

  • 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??

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.


  • 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


    • 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.


      • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.


  • 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.

    • 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!?


  • 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….

    • 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.)


  • 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?

    • 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.


  • 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?

    • 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!



  • 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

  • Hi
    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..

    • 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.


  • 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

    • Hi Connor,

      Technically a megabyte is 1000 kilobytes whereas a mebibyte is 1024 kilobytes. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebibyte. 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.


  • 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

  • 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?

    • 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.



  • 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?

    • 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…


  • 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

    • 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.


  • 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

    • Hi,

      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.



  • 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!

  • 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 ?

    • 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,


  • 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 ??

    • Hi Ray,

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


  • 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.

  • 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?


    • 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,

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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!


    • 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?


  • 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?

    • 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!



  • 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!


  • 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?

    • 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.


    • 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


  • 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!!

    • 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!


  • 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!

    • 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,


      • 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!

  • 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 🙂

    • 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 🙂


  • 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.

  • 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 ?

  • 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?

  • 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 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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.


  • 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?

    • 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?


  • 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?

    • 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.



  • 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!

    • 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 🙂


  • Hi
    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!

  • 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

    • 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


      • 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

        • 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 🙂


  • 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.

    • 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 0.facebook.com… all other Facebook usage is metered. However, Facebook usage alone is unlikely to use up very much data.

      Hope this helps,


  • 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 🙂

  • 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……….

      • 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,


        • 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

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

    • 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.


    • 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).


      • 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.

  • 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.


  • 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!

    • 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.


  • 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!!

  • 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?

    • 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.


  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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,


    • 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.

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

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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 🙂

      • 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' 😀

  • 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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