Mobile Broadband Download Limits Explained
We are in a generation of technology. More and more people everyday are using mobile broadband as part of their daily lives. Whether it is for communication, research, or simply pure entertainment, the use of mobile broadband brings a new way of travelling through the world that surrounds us.
Of course, with this gem of tangible and accessible technology, there can be confusion. If you are using mobile broadband, you are most likely trading emails, conversing through instant messaging, or downloading songs, videos or photos. What are our limits? We know that when we purchased a mobile broadband plan through our providers (T-Mobile, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Orange, etc.) there are limits and costs, however what does it all mean?
What is a GB, a MB, and a KB?
Mobile broadband usage is measured, generally, in GBs or gigabytes or MBs or megabytes. Sometimes the units are broken down further into KBs or kilobytes. One GB is equal to 1,024MB and 1 MB is equal to 1,024 KB. All files, photos, songs, downloads, emails etc. take up a certain amount of GB or MB. The most important thing to realize is that not all files are created equally. For example, not every photo will take up the same number of GB as it depends on the quality and size of the photo. This is significant in that data calculators, charts that you can enter what you are planning to download on your mobile broadband, can be inaccurate. Only use these calculators as an estimate. Regularly check your online account with your provider so you do not go over your data plan.
How many GBs do I need?
Since mobile broadband usage is prevalent in our lives, there are countless data plans available. You may be wondering how much you actually need. The answer to this question varies, as it depends on your intentions. Some people use mobile broadband for casual surfing or to quickly check an email. Others use mobile broadband as a replacement for a fixed-line broadband. In effect, when choosing there are two main questions you want to ask yourself: ‘How much will I be using my mobile broadband per month?’ and ‘How much are you planning on downloading on your mobile broadband?’ In order to answer those questions, you may need to break down your usage by day or by week to get the most accurate estimate when considering these factors:
- How many emails will you send or receive?
- How long do you plan to instant message every day?
- How long do you think you will surf the internet?
- How many songs do you plan on downloading?
- How many videos or films do you think you will download?
- How many games or software updates do you want?
- How many photos are you going to upload or download?
When taking into account the amount of GB you will be using, realize how many GB will be used with each action. Here are a few guidelines, nonetheless, depending on the specific file or download, note that these are purely approximations:
- Instant Messaging and Surfing the Web— 0.25-25MB; Instant messaging and surfing doesn’t take up too much of your usage. However, there is a large range because depending on the websites you visit or if your friend sends you a photo, those actions can take up more GB. This is something to note when browsing online on your mobile broadband.
- Emailing—1-10MB; This amount is equivalent to downloading about 100 emails. It should be noted that there are two types of emailing: web-based and software-based. Web-based emails take up the same usage as surfing the web (these are systems like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, for example) unless you are downloading an attachment. Software-based email (e.g. Outlook) downloads attachments and images automatically, taking up more GB.
- Images, MP3s, Video, and Software—the amount varies depending on the content. All of these downloads come down to several features of the item you are downloading, including quality and size. A photo can be anywhere from 0.5MB-2MB, an audio clip from 3MB-8MB, a film or video from 7MB-1500MB, and software from 70MB-800MB.
- Streaming Audio or Video—50MB to 150MB; Streaming is the video or audio playing while downloading. This process can be very data intensive. The amount of GB will also depend on quality and length of the clip.
How do I pay?
Depending on what works best for you and what your mobile broad band provider offers, you can pay either monthly or pay as you go. So what is the difference?
Most providers will offer a monthly payment plan. This allows you to pay every month usually under a contract. Contracts last between 18-24 months on average and usually include 3-15GB per month. Though, you may add more or less GB to your plan.
Pay as you go
This opportunity is a little more difficult to find. Not all providers allow this option. Basically with this payment type you pay per GB you use or pay for a certain amount of days for the mobile broadband.
Charges for exceeding
One thing to keep in mind is if you go over your mobile broadband plan, you may be penalized. Mobile broadband providers are a “Fair Usage Policy,” meaning they put a bar on the amount of service provided so that it does not affect others using their services (e.g. slowing down other connections). Each provider has their own policies. Most providers will charge for exceeding the amount of usage you are under contract for, however some will slow the connection as a warning as well. It is important to keep track of how much GB you are using so that you do not accumulate extra charges and ask your provider the consequences of exceeding your data plan. Data calculators can be helpful, but always refer to your online account for accuracy.
Overall, when looking at a mobile broadband plan you have a few things to consider. How much are you going to depend on your mobile broadband and what are you going to use it for? Your providers can give you a good idea on the amount of usage you will most likely use; however, it is also a good idea to have an estimate for yourself. By rule of thumb, you should avoid plans using 1GB or less unless you plan on doing very light usage of your mobile broadband. The more you want to download, the larger the data plan you should purchase. And some final tips: know your plan and always monitor your usage.