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What does 1GB get you? Mobile internet explained

The top of a SmartphoneAll muddled up over megabytes? Can't get your head around gigabytes? We explain exactly what you get for your mobile phone's data allowance.

If you have a phone that can view web pages, check Facebook and Twitter, or send emails, then whether you know it or not, you will have a monthly data allowance.

This is the amount of internet use you are allowed in a month without being charged extra.

That's all very well and good but how do you know what is enough, too much or too little when it comes to choosing your smartphone data package?

Helpfully, we've broken it down into terms that are easy to understand for anyone.

Know your data speak

Firstly, it's worth explaining what each unit of measurement is worth.

When it comes to mobile data, you shouldn't be encountering anything smaller than one megabyte (MB), which is made up of 1024 kilobytes.

As a point of reference, the smallest deals usually come in at 250MB.

The next measurement up is a gigabyte (GB), which is made up of (you guessed it) 1024MB.

This is at the top end of what you will generally be offered with your mobile deal, although we are starting to see 2GB or more offered by some providers as data speeds improve and consumers' data thirst increases.

So what does it get you then?

We put the table below together with some help from mobile phone comparison service mobilesplease.co.uk.

It should make understanding how much data you need a little easier.

Activity

MB

With 1,024 MB (1GB)

Viewing webpages

1 hour surfing the web

10 (avg)

102 hours

Facebook

1 hour use but not streaming video

20

51 hours

TV

Streaming a half hour episode of Eastenders

90

11 episodes

Youtube

Watching Psy's 'Gangnam Style' video

11

93 plays

Email

100 emails sent and received (w/o attachments)

2.5

40960 emails

Google maps

10 minutes of use

6

28.44 hours

Skype

30 minute video chat

40

12.8 hours

MotorMate

30 minute trip

70kb

14,336 30-min trips

QuickQuote

One car insurance quote

3kb

34,9525 quotes

How to choose your mobile phone data package 

Mark Bridge, mobile phone expert and podcast producer at thefonecast.com, offers the following tips when it comes to choosing your package:

"Make sure you know what happens when you exceed any data allowance: will you be charged at a higher rate, will the service stop working or will it be restricted for the rest of the month?

"And if you're worried about how much you'll pay but are equally worried about being out of touch, look for a truly unlimited data deal."

Mobile internet and beyond

The more data we use, and the more hungry apps and services become for data, the higher the allowance we're going to need.

And with faster 4G offering customers much faster internet connection the amount of data we're consuming is bound to rise, and with it, the size of data deals.

Bridge has this to say on the future of mobile data: "The short-term future of the mobile internet is all about speed, I'd say.

"We're pretty certain to see the UK's major mobile phone networks all launching 4G services. However, we'll also see more competition from Wi-Fi. 

"Wi-Fi is becoming a selling point, with everyone from supermarkets to bookshops giving away free internet access as an incentive to shoppers.

"Perhaps in the future we won't need to pay for mobile data at all – we'll simply connect via Wi-Fi in each shop we visit."

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Paul Drury

Paul Drury

Paul was a contributor and techy person at Confused.com between 2011 and 2013.

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