Main content

Alert message

Two students using their mobile phonesDownload: docMobile data: what you need to know66.5 KB

Download: pdfMobile data: what you need to know320.75 KB

Most smartphone plans come with a monthly data allowance, for example 500MB or 1GB (this is how much internet use you are allowed each month).

Data is measured in kilobytes (kB), megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB):

1024kB = 1MB

1024MB = 1GB

When you choose a mobile plan, consider how much data you use on your smartphone by looking at your existing usage. Use this information to help you select a plan that will suit your needs. If you use more than your included allowance you will be charged extra. Read ACCAN’s article for more information on excess data charges.

You should always keep track of how much data you use with spend management tools – usually your provider will have a smartphone app or an online account on their website where you can access this information.

Telcos are required to send you usage alerts when you reach 50, 85 and 100 per cent of your data limit. These alerts will help you keep track of your usage. Telcos are only required to send these alerts within 48 hours of you reaching a limit, so by the time you receive one you may already be over your allowance.

Some providers will charge a minimum data session. For example, even though a single Facebook status update might only use a few kB, some providers will count that as 1MB. Check your provider’s website as to how you will be charged. For more information on this look at ACCAN’s Megacharge project.

So what does this all mean when you are using your smartphone? The table below shows some common smartphone activities and how much data they typically use.




Data usage

Sending a tweet

Minimal (a few kB)

One Facebook status update

Minimal (a few kB)

Refreshing Twitter stream (approximately 10 times)


Refreshing Facebook news feed


GPS maps (1 location search)


Email (100 sent/received without attachments)


Music streaming (3 minutes)


Radio streaming (10 minutes)


Email (10 sent/received with attachments)


General web browsing (30 minutes)


YouTube video streaming at 720p (5 minutes)


Downloading a standard length TV show in Standard Definition TV show


Downloading a standard length TV show in High Definition


Downloading a standard length movie in Standard Definition


Downloading a standard length movie in High Definition


Streaming High Definition content

Up to 3GB/hour

Navigating on Google Maps (10 minutes)


Please note this table is intended to be used as a rough guide. Data usage can vary depending on your device and the quality of content.