Bandwidth Usage

On today’s Smart phones, customer can use Internet based applications in much the same way as a standard computer.

The issue is that most mobile phone networks do not offer the same bandwidth(speed) as you get from your home or office based broadband.

This is reflected in the cost and the way they charge.

Before using the 3G Internet service on your mobile, you need to be aware of the implications.

Internet Access Plans

Most  mobile operators offer plan/contracts with two monthly data usage options

  1. 1GB.
  2. 500MB.

This is the amount your download to your smart phone.

Remember Bytes are the units of data storage/transfer(8 Bits equals 1 Byte)

MB = Mega Byte,   GB = Giga Byte is a 1024 MBs.

We need to take these limits and work out our monthly Internet data usage.

The great difficulty here is that each piece of Internet content(file, photo etc.) takes up a different amount of data. For example viewing a web page containing mostly text is going to require much less of your data budget than one with high definition photographs and video clips.

The list below describes a set of common Internet activities(Actions) with the current guesstimates for data usage.

Action Bandwidth Usage
Viewing an average web page 1MB per page
Basic text email 0.5MB per email
BBC I-Player or YouTube low resolution 500MB per hour
BBC I-Player or You Tube high resolution 650MB per hour
Skype style voice call 50MB per hour
Skype style video call 250MB per hour
Digital Radio low quality 12MB per hour
Digital Radio high quality 36 MB per hour
Downloading an iTune 3 minute song Between 2 and 5MB
Online Gaming 4MB per hour

So you could have a 500MB usage option and easily accommodate 200 text emails(100MB), 200 web pages(200MB) and 10 hours low quality digital radio(120MB), with 80MB left over.

Equally 1 hours low resolution viewing of I-Player and you have blown you monthly allowance.

Other guideline figures to consider are:

  1. Updates – Operating System and software application updates can require large amounts of additional bandwidth.
  2. Files attached to emails: check how big the attachment is before downloading.
  3. Security software(McAfee, F-Secure etc.) in theory has an update for every new threat that they identify and fix. The amount of data used depends totally on the threat, but my rule of thumb is 100-300kB per day which could add 9MB to your  monthly usage.

So plan your usage carefully, and consider using Wifi as an alternative if you need access to a large amount of data.

Internet Browsing Monthly allowances are not carried forward to the next month.

If you exceed your Monthly allowance operators either

  • cut you off for that month
  • charge you at a contract rate per MB over the allowance. Internet  Monthly allowances are typically for UK only access.

You will be charged separately for using your mobile abroad – check with your operator as some may offer extensions to existing UK tariff packages.

Sections Mobile Costs and Using your Mobile abroad expands on the costs and options.


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