At the end of January lots of attention was given to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's decision to allow the main Internet Service Providers to charge smaller reseller ISPs on a usage based system. Critics say that this decision is likely to cause an increase in the bills of customers who download film and stream or download music online. Broadband or high speed internet in your home is not the only place where you need to consider how much you are using in order to reduce the risk of an unexpectedly high utility bill, your cell phone is another bandwidth hog waiting to catch you out. In this article I will give you some simple advice on how to estimate the amount of data you are likely to use per month to enable you to choose the right data plan for your cell phone.
There are 5 main types of data that you are likely to view or use on your cell phone:
- Web pages
- Video and Audio streaming
- Instant messages
- Applications or games
Let's take web browsing first. Your web browser connects you to the internet in the same way as you would on your home computer. Some websites can detect that you are viewing the site using a mobile device and will display a page that is optimized for mobile devices, this page is likely to have lower resolution images, be formatted for a smaller screen, and therefore contain a smaller volume of data. If you are viewing a non-mobile version of a website however you may be surprised at the size of the data files that are transmitted to your wireless device. Here are two examples that will help you gauge how much data you will download per month through viewing webpages. If you view 12 webpages per day, which might be checking Facebook or your email account, reading one or two stories at your local newspaper, or checking the bus schedule; your total monthly data consumption from web browsing will be 61 Mb, if you view 32 per day it increases to 163 Mb, and if you 52 per day it will be 265 Mb per month.
The second type of common data usage is email. As with browsing the Internet, much depends on whether the email has an image or attachment, but for this example I will consider only text emails. If you receive 8 emails per day your monthly usage will be 5 Mb, at 32 emails per day your consumption is 19.2 Mb, and at 52 emails per day it increases to 31 Mb. If you receive attachments these figures will climb rapidly, one photograph could easily be 0.5Mb.
Streaming online audio and video is another data-heavy activity that many people enjoy doing on their smartphones. Youtube, Google Video, and many news and entertainment organizations provide endless hours of entertainment and interesting content, and passing the time on your commute by catching up on the latest YouTube sensation can certainly be very satisfying. Watching a 4 minute video online every day adds up to a significant 120 Mb per month. If you increase this to 12 minutes it increases to 360 Mb per month.
Instant messaging, such as Twitter and Skype Chat have become very common and convenient ways to keep in touch with friends and family, learn about events around the world, and follow subjects you're interested in. Whilst 140 character tweets consume very small amounts of data, approximately 200 bytes, they're so easy to send and receive that you can rack up a lot of them in a month. If you sent and received 25 tweets per day you would consume 22 Mb, if you send and receive 100 tweets this increases to 90 Mb per month.
Finally downloading applications and games is another activity that is common on smartphones and consumes considerable amounts of data. Although you're unlikely to download an application or game more than once or twice per week, they are larger files than the other types of activity above. Downloading 1 application per week will consume approximately 16 Mb, with 2 per week consuming 32 Mb per month.
To pull these 5 data types together lets consider a low, medium, and high user based on the figures above. Firstly a low user would view 12 webpages, receive 8 emails, watch 1 minute of video, send and receive 12 instant messages per day, and download one application per month. This results in a total of 111 Mb of data per month. A medium user who views 32 web pages, receives 32 emails, watches 4 minutes of video, sends and receives 32 instant messages per day, and downloads 1 application per week. This user will use approximately 204 Mb of data per month. Finally a high-data user who viewed 52 webpages, received 52 emails, watches 8 minutes of video, send and receives 100 instant messages per day, and downloads 2 applications per week will use a total of 649 Mb of data.
You can see how quickly your data usage can eat into your monthly included allowance. The figures quoted in this article are from Telus Mobility's website, and are calculated to help their customers estimate their usage needs.