Broadband Guides

Calculate Your Internet Data Consumption Before You Buy a Plan

08/10/2012

How much data will I download or upload?

Each time you read an email, view a web page, listen to a music file or watch a video on the internet you are downloading data. Each time you send an email or make a request for a web page, you are uploading data. This is important because the way you use the internet will determine which ISP account is best suited to your needs.

As wireless providers move away from offering unlimited data plans, and going for pay-per-use plans, many smartphone owners want to better understand their own wireless data usage to avoid racking up surprise charges.

While you can log on to your wireless carrier account to check how much data you've used so far during the current billing period, it is often difficult to tell how much data each type of internet activity consumes.

The following information is provided as a guide to assist users to calculate how much data they may upload or download on a desktop :

  • activities such as receiving and sending text emails, receiving and sending relatively short word processing documents and reading largely text-based internet pages (browsing) would commonly use approximately 0.02 to 0.05 megabytes (MB) per activity;
  • receiving or sending still pictures may use anywhere between 0.05 and 0.25 MB per picture;
  • downloading a piece of music (MP3) could be expected to use about 4 MB; and
  • downloading a five-minute music video or a movie trailer, with moving pictures and sound could be expected to use about 30 MB.

If your primary intention is to send a relatively small quantity of emails to family and close friends, then it may be better not to pay extra for time or data you are unlikely to use.

For the purpose of providing a basic understanding, we’ve put together some information on data volume usage by internet activity.


Standard measurement of data to user activity

If you already have a data plan, you can check your wireless bill to see how much data you use in a typical month and decide whether or not you should go to a lower or higher data tier. The general rule of thumb is the bigger your device, the more data you will consume and the longer time you spend online, the more expenses you will spend on your internet.

Otherwise, you can calculate how much data you'll need to access over a month using the examples below, provided by the major wireless providers in the U.S. (note that these are estimates only and data usage can vary by phone/device and other variables).

Are you considered a low data user or high data user ? First identify your usage activity and know which category you belong to.


Usage Key

Low Usage
Send and receive emails, visit websites
Medium Usage
Send receive emails with attachments, visit websites, watch some video online
High Usage
Heavy downloading and uploading large video or graphic files
Extreme Usage
Multiple websites using one data connection and heavy downloading and uploading large video or graphic files


What’s a “normal” level of mobile data usage?

If you’re wondering how much data your mobile internet is using, we’ve selected some smartphone data consumption indicators from a Service Provider to display how much a “normal” user consumes. As a rule of thumb, mobile activities generally are more data-light, but also depending on what kind of activities or websites that you surf. An average residential (non-business) smartphone user consumes about this much data per day:

  • Fewer than 10 e-mails sent/received (no attachments) = 2.5 MB
  • 1 e-mail with photo attachment = 10 MB
  • 3 e-mails sent/received (with other attachment) = 12 MB
  • 5 minutes of streaming music per day (about 2.5 hours per month) = 72 MB
  • 5 web pages visited = 25 MB
  • 0-1 applications downloaded (games/songs) = 60 MB
  • 10 social media posts per day = 14 MB
  • 1 minute of streaming video per day (about 30 minutes per month) = 60 MB

Next, we’ve put together some basic indications of data volume that you will use based on your favourite activity so that you can estimate how much data you will be potentially using.

Value
Activity
Data Used
1
Email – text only
Email - with lo-res photo attachment
Email - with MS Office attachment: 300 KB
3 KB – 20 KB
350 KB
300 KB
1
Web Page
150 KB - 1.5 MB
1 min
Streaming Music
500 KB
1
Social media update with photo
500 KB
1
Hi-res digital photo upload/download
1 MB
1 min
Streaming Video
2 MB - 5 MB
1
App/Game/Song Download
3 MB - 4 MB


Estimate Your Speed Diet

Think about what will you use your broadband for. The more you want to use it to download music or video, the afster the speed you’ll probably need. We’ve filtered our benchmarks to help you plan a data “diet” that will help you avoid busting your budget. We based these estimates on general data calculations assuming a 100% throughput and parked them based on data packages currently available in the market. Data consumption estimates are based on activities operating from a desktop computer. These basic and general data measurement is to help you understand and so you know what to cut back on to keep your wireless bill under control.

ACTIVITY CONNECTION SPEED
56 kbit/s 384 kbit/s 512 kbit/s 1 Mbit/s 2 Mbit/s 4 Mbit/s 5 Mbit/s 8 Mbit/s 10 Mbit/s 16 Mbit/s 20 Mbit/s 24 Mbit/s 50 Mbit/s
Download 250KB webpage 36sec 5sec 4sec 2sec 1sec 0.5sec 0.4sec 0.2sec 0.2sec 0.1sec 0.1sec 0.08sec 0.04sec
Download 5MB music track 12min 2min 1min 40sec 20sec 10sec 8sec 5sec 4sec 3sec 2sec 2sec 0.8sec
Downloading a 30 second Video Clip of 15MB size 37min 6min 4min 2min 1min 30sec 24sec 15sec 12sec 7sec 6sec 5sec 3sec
Downloading of 1GB of high quality movies 1 day 18 hrs 6 hrs 4hrs 33 mins 2hrs 16 mins 75min 34 min 27min 19min 13min 9min 7min 6min 2min 43sec

Bear in mind that as you grow more and better versed with the internet, your time spent online and variant of activity will grow too. If you are an ardent video downloader, we’ve collected some broadband speed indicators with details on loading time taken, download time taken and the type of video that you will be downloading. All variable factors shown in the table effects the time taken to download a video. Below is a summary on broadband calculated speeds.

Speed
(kilobits)
Load time
(100 kb)
Download time
(5 MB of data)
Video Quality
56k (dial up)
15 sec
12 min 35 sec
Low Quality
256k
4 sec
3 min
Low Quality
512k
1.5 sec
1 min 30 sec
Low Quality
1MB
4 sec
8-9 sec
40-41 sec
2MB
4-5 sec
19-20 sec
Medium Quality
4MB
1-2 sec
5-6 sec
Medium Quality
6MB
Immediately
Immediately
Medium Quality
8MB
Immediately
Immediately
High Quality

You have to have in mind that the above data could be affected by your PC processing speed, viruses etc.


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