Spectrum Resource Center

Spectrum Resource Center


How Much Data Do I Need?

4:00 Minute Read

Our mobile devices use more data than ever. We have so many options to stream, game and connect with friends almost anywhere in the world. Do you watch your favorite shows on your morning commute? Do you often video chat with family on business trips? It’s easy to burn through your monthly data allowance and possibly incur hefty overage fees.

If you're thinking about getting a new mobile plan (or changing your existing one), you may be wondering, “How much data do I need?” Choosing the best data plan starts with examining your mobile habits. If you pick a plan that doesn’t adequately cover your data needs, you might face significant overage fees. At the same time, you don’t want to pay for more than you need. In this article, we’ll break down all the details to find out how much data is right for your lifestyle.

How to Check Your Current Data Usage

The easiest way to find out how much data you need each month is by looking at your current mobile bill. Even if you have an unlimited data plan, your bill should outline the amount of data used by each phone on your plan. You can also find data usage in your phone’s settings or your carrier’s app. 

From there, you only need to account for cellular data, which should be a small percentage of your overall usage. In fact, 80% of data on mobile phones is actually used on WiFi. None of that usage count towards your monthly plan – only when your device is connected to a 3G, 4G or 5G network.

For most plans, SMS (Short Message Service – only capability is sending a text) text messages don’t count toward your monthly data limit if you have an unlimited nationwide text plan. MMS (Multimedia Message Service – includes pictures, video and audio) texts, which is a standard way to send messages that include multimedia content to and from a mobile phone, do count toward your data usage.

Most plans will include international talk and text. International talk – calling from the U.S. to international numbers – is pay per minute. International text is free. 

How Do You Use Your Phone?

Are you a heavy user or a light user? Is your phone usually connected to WiFi when you’re on-the-go? Do your needs change from day to day or month to month? For example, a month from now, you may need extra data for an upcoming trip.

How Much Data Does the Average Person Use?

Studies show people are increasing their data usage year after year, with as much as 80% of mobile data being used over WiFi. Before we go any further, it may be helpful to know what MB and GB mean.

  • MB stands for megabyte. A megabyte is a unit of information storage capacity.

  • GB stands for gigabyte, also a unit of storage capacity, but larger than a megabyte. 

In short, a GB allows you to use more data than an MB, and (generally) at a greater speed with better quality. GB is often confused with term, gigabit, which refers to Internet speed. One gigabit Internet speed means you can download up to 1,000,000,000 bits per second or 1,000 megabits per second. That's 100 times faster than the average Internet speed in the United States.

How Much Is 1 GB of Data?

A gigabyte equals 1,000 megabytes, or 1000MB. If you’re a light phone user – meaning you use it primarily to browse the web/social sites and check email for up to 40 minutes a day – 1GB should be enough to last you the month.

If you use your phone mostly for other things, 1GB may still be enough. You can get about 10 hours of music or watch 1 to 2 standard-definition (SD) films a month for 1GB.

How Much Is 2 GB of Data?

You guessed it: double the megabytes at 2000MB and double the capacity and quality 1GB would give you.

The following charts provide a snapshot of how much data the average person uses per hour. Keep in mind, these numbers are approximate and will vary due to a range of factors.


Average Data Used Per Hour



Browsing web/social media


Instant messaging


Online gaming


Streaming music


Video calling


Streaming video

700MB (SD), 3GB (Full HD)



Average Data Used


1.5MB per minute (regular use)

Google Maps

.73MB per 20 minutes

STVA and/or Max from HBO*

.65GB per hour (standard), 1.26GB (high)


1GB per hour (SD), 3GB per hour (Full HD)


250MB per hour (SD), 3GB per hour (Full HD)

*These and similar services allow you to download videos to your device. To save data, download over WiFi to watch when you’re away from home.

How Can You Save on Data?

Now that you know how much common device usage “costs,” here are some tips to help you conserve the data you use each month:

  • Make sure you’re connected to a WiFi connection or a WiFi access point whenever possible

  • Since streaming video is the biggest consumer of data, try to stream over WiFi

  • Disable auto-play videos in Settings

  • Exit apps when you’re done using them

  • Enable data saving mode, if available

  • Set a warning or limit on data usage

  • Disable automatic updates

  • Use a portable WiFi access point

  • Turn off location tracking

  • Track your data on your mobile provider’s app, such as the My Spectrum App

Choosing or Revisiting Your Data Plan

We hope the information above helps you to choose a new data plan or adjust the one you already have. Below is a quick-reference chart to help you with your decision, especially if you’re considering a switch to Spectrum Mobile.

Typical Activities

Data Usage / Month

Spectrum Data Plan

Checking email, texting, phone calls

<3 GB

By the Gig

Browsing social media and the web

3 GB - 29 GB


Streaming music, TV and movies

30 GB or more

Unlimited Plus


With Spectrum Mobile, you’ll never have to worry about overage fees. Choose a By the Gig plan and pay just $19.99/mo for the first GB and $5 /GB after the first GB – or get our best deal in Mobile with an Unlimited plan starting at just $29.99/mo per line.

You can change from By the Gig to Unlimited or Unlimited Plus anytime during your billing cycle. You can maximize your savings with two or more lines and Spectrum Internet. Plus, our nationwide network of WiFi access points helps keep your data usage down when you’re on-the-go. And if you want, you can always track your data using the My Spectrum App or Spectrum.net.

Interested in learning more? Check out everything Spectrum Mobile has to offer.

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