Internet Plans: How Much Data Do You Need?

Even if you’re not on a limited budget, the cost of your Internet service can vary based on how much data you use. Data caps are designed to keep you from using so much data that it becomes unsustainable for providers to run their businesses. But such caps can also be troublesome if you suddenly go over your limit because of unexpected spikes in data usage due to things like file-sharing or streaming video. We’ll run you through the basics of data limits.

Data Usage for Streaming

Streaming, whether you stream movies or shows, or music, can use a lot of data. By streaming in SD instead of HD, you can cut your data usage down to 1 GB per hour. But you’ll have to sacrifice quality if you go this route. Music streaming sites like Spotify use a lot less data than platforms that stream movies and TV shows. Spotify only uses about 1 GB of data for every 7 hours of music streams.

Data Usage for Gaming

The data you use for gaming can vary from less than 1 GB to more than 10 GB per month. If you’re sending and receiving several high-quality photos and video content, downloading software upgrades or patches that add features, or playing multiplayer games online, you’ll use even more data.

Data Usage for Email and Browsing

Don’t do a lot of streaming or downloading? You probably don’t need a great amount of data. Approximately 1 GB is needed to send and/or receive 1,000 emails. Surfing the web for 20 hours consumes the same amount of data, too.

What Happens when You Exceed Your Data Cap

Going over your data cap can be expensive, so it’s important to know the consequences of going over your limit.

Overage Fees

Some providers do charge overage fees for any data consumed on the last day of the month, even if you go over your limit before that final day. This is important to note if you are reaching your data cap during that last week of the month.

Soft Data Caps

With some providers, if you go over your data cap, you’ll experience throttled speeds—slower than normal internet access. They’ll slow your connection down to speeds as low as 1 or 3 Mbps.