Mobile data allowance. We all know those words from our mobile phone contract. But what do they actually mean? How much data is enough?
What does 1GB data mean on a smartphone? Can you use Facebook? Listen to Spotify? Watch Youtube? What about Netflix?
We answer all of these questions and more, as we explain what mobile data is and what it can be used for.
Most people these days have a smartphone that allows them to check their email, search the internet, watch films, listen to music and engage with social media all from their handheld device.
But every time you use your mobile to do these things, you're using data. To be precise, you're downloading information from the internet and the information you're downloading is measured in data.
How is mobile internet data measured?
1 gigabyte (GB) is made up of 1024 megabytes.
1 megabyte (MB) is made up of 1024 kilobytes (KB).
There are smaller units (bytes) but most internet data is measured in MB as it makes most sense.
How much data do I use?
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2021 said that the average person used 4.5GB of data per month in 2020.
This was up by 27% on 2019, which was itself an increase of 22% on 2018.
If this trend continues, we can guess that mobile data use in 2021 would have increased by around 20-30% again.
This means that the average person in 2021 might have used 5.6GB of mobile data each month.
And in 2022 the average person could possibly using around 7GB a month.
Most mobile handsets allow you to track your data usage on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. So it could be worth finding this setting and checking how much data you actually use each month.
Do I get enough mobile data?
There's a simple way to work this out - do you go over your data allowance every month?
If you do then you probably need more data.
If you don't then you're ok - but it might be worth checking if there's a cheaper mobile phone tariff where you don't pay for data you don't use.
How much data do I need?
Each person's data needs will be different and is affected by how they use their phone, for how long, and what they use it for.
It also depends where you use your phone as if you use WiFi most of the time, you aren't using your mobile data at the same time.
For an in-depth look at how much data you need, check out our guide to smartphone data.
What happens if I use up all my data?
If you go over your data allowance, you're normally charged for every MB you use.
The cost of this depends on your network - so check how much this is before you breach your data limit.
Most networks warn you when you’re about to go over your data limit.
Often they offer you an 'add-on' allowing you to continue using data but not having to pay for every megabyte.
However, if this keeps happening you should really upgrade your deal as it should work out cheaper in the long run.
Be especially careful using your mobile phone abroad (called 'roaming') as the data costs can be extortionate when you're travelling.
Does data over WiFi count as mobile data?
No, any data you use when you're connected to WiFi is downloaded through the WiFi. This means you aren't using your mobile data allowance.
If you mainly use your phone in places where it's connected to WiFi then you should only need your data for when you're out and about.
Does 5G use more data than 4G?
No, the amount of data doesn't change when you use 5G, just the speed at which you get it.
Be warned though - the speed of 5G could make you use your phone even more just because it's so quick.
How much is 1GB of data?
1GB of data a month breaks down to either:
- Browsing 14 web pages a day
- 16 minutes of Facebook a day
- 90 minutes of video on Netflix a month
- 12 hours of listening to Spotify a month
How much is 5GB of data?
5GB of data a month breaks down to either:
- Browsing 72 web pages a day
- 81 minutes of Facebook a day
- 7.5 hours of video on Netflix a month
- 60 hours of listening to Spotify a month
How much is 10GB of data?
10GB of data a month breaks down to either:
- Browsing 144 web pages a day
- 160 minutes of Facebook a day
- 15 hours of video on Netflix a month
- 120 hours of listening to Spotify a month