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Whenever you go looking for a high-speed internet plan, more often than not, it is 3 aspects that count the most. Speed, data and price. And in order to pin down the provider-plan which offers you the best of all, it is necessary you are not only aware of how much speed you need to keep every user and device connected, but the how much data.

After all, if it is a limited data plan, you’d not want to keep having to shell out around $10 every month in overage fee, or for that matter experience throttled speeds, or still worse have the service suspended temporarily, depending on the policy exercised by your ISP. Conversely, if your internet data usage is not extensive, it’d not make sense to go for unlimited data and pay more.

The more recent and rather drastic increase in internet data usage, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, is directly related to everyday tasks people everywhere conduct. From school lessons to office work, and doctors’ appointments to meeting with family and friends. Work, entertainment and communication all have come to rely on technology like never before. In March 2020 an 18% increase in household data consumption was reported by Statista according to a study published in April 2021. Average daily internet data usage rates increased by 38% from 12 GB in March 2019 to 16.6 GB in March 2020. Spike in data usage was observed across all devices, however gaming consoles and smartphones depicted the most increase.

After all, even when on-the-go you use cellular data to back up basic phone functions. Cell phones are no longer restricted to text messages. Voice calls over the internet have pretty much become the norm. Not to forget all those streaming and gaming apps regularly in use. Add to that, all the data consumed by your gaming console, on days when you find yourself dealing with restricted outdoor movement.

The spike in internet data usage no doubt stands well explained.

For this reason now you not only need a high-speed internet connection, but a healthy data allowance, and if possible a good deal with unlimited data. And, this sure calls for a decent understanding of your household internet data usage besides your need for speed.

 

How Do You Measure Internet Data Usage?

Internet data is measured using different units which include kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB).

Basic web browsing, emailing, and small sized files are all measured in KBs. This type of internet usage does not have much impact on your data consumption.

Using music streaming apps and/or downloading music, video calling on Skype, or streaming HD, 4K/UHD video, are activities usually measured in MBs and GBs. This level of activity is more significant than KBs, and has more of an effect on your internet data usage.

If you are with a friend over a Skype video call for an hour, it may cost you about 4 MB of data per minute, albeit this number will vary depending on picture resolution. Attending a one-to-one Zoom call can use up to 540 MB for SD video, whereas a Zoom group call may require up to 810 MB internet data.

Netflix in SD consumes up to 1 GB per hour. Watching in HD eats up 3 GB per hour. And, if you are streaming in 4K/UHD it’ll take up to 7 GB out of your data allowance. That is why when you are looking for the ideal internet speeds for Netflix streaming, make sure you keep the data requirement in perspective.

How Much Internet Data Do You Need?

Well, if all that you do includes web surfing, emailing, connecting on social media, and maybe watch a video clip every once in while, you may not use more than 5 GB data in a month. But, if you stream occasionally and interact with family and friends over a Skype video call, your usage can be up to 10 GB per month. And, if you also work from home with kids attending school online, watch TV over the internet while your kids play online games, internet data consumption in your household is likely to exceed the 10 GB mark.

Don’t forget these are estimates for a single individual, and you ought to account for each member of the family when making an estimate of your monthly internet data usage. If you keep in mind 10 GB data per month buys you 140 hours of audio streaming, 15 hours of DVD-quality streaming, 5 hours of HD-quality streaming, 5,000 pages worth of web browsing, and 30 hours of social media networking, you can pretty easily get to an approximate aggregate for data consumption in your household.

To understand better take a look at what a 200 GB and 500 GB data plan may allow you to do:

Activity What does 200 GB get you? What does 500 GB get you?
Emails 50 per day 200 per day
Web Browsing 1 hour per day 6 hours per day
Social Media 2 hours per day 4 hours per day
Video Streaming 2 hours per day (HD)
8 hours per day (SD)
4 hours per day (HD)
16 hours per day (SD)
Music Streaming 1 hour per day 6 hours per day
Video Conferencing 1 hour per day (HD)
5 hours per day (SD)
3 hours per day (HD)
17 hours per day (SD)
Gaming 1 hour per day 4 hours per day

Some things are very obvious on their own. For example, it is easy to understand checking your email 4-5 times a day won't be the reason for you to breach the data cap. But streaming Netflix all day maybe the reason you run out of the monthly data allowance. With apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it can however be a little confusing as to how much data is needed. Features like auto-play on Instagram also consume more data without you realizing it. This is why configuring device settings and controlling how you use your apps makes a huge difference on internet data usage.

How to Keep Track  of Internet Data Usage

Well, Microsoft has built-in useful data monitoring tools for people who are on a limited data connection. So, if you are running your PC on Windows 10 for instance, you can easily keep a track of internet data usage by navigating from Settings ?Network & Internet ?Data Usage. Click on Usage Details and you’ll have a listing that tells you exactly how much each app has used in a given time period, for instance the last 30 days. The one downside is the built-in tool only lists data consumed by the native Windows 10 apps.

Similarly, Mac users can see how much data various system apps are utilizing. Pull up the Activity Monitor via Spotlight, and click on the Network tab. You’ll see a list of apps and data consumed by each.

Most mobile devices also come with the option of viewing data usage and this feature is available for both Android and iPhone users. You can easily view the graphic representation of mobile data usage during a specific period, and get an idea of how much data each app is consuming.  

For iPhone users, go to Settings ?Cellular ?Mobile Data and here you can access internet data usage details. Android users can go to Settings ?Network & Internet ?Mobile Network ?Data Usage where they’ll see all data usage details.

The Best Internet Service Providers with Great Data Deals

As we said, not everyone needs unlimited data. By the end of March 2020 when the average monthly internet data usage in a U.S. household saw the new high of over 400 GB, people could still get by without an unlimited data plan. Because while broadband services such as Xfinity from Comcast, Mediacom, and Cox offer capped plans, largely speaking their subscribers can use around 1 TB data every month. Meaning you can listen to over 20,000 hours of non-stop music, watch 500 hours of HD video, game online with friends across the country for over 30,000 hours, and video chat for 3500 hours as you work or learn online!

With that said, more and more high-speed internet providers are now offering unlimited data across the entire range of their plans. For instance, Spectrum, CenturyLink, and Optimum. While others like AT&T offer some plans with capped data allowance, and others with unlimited. And, for large households with a number of users and connected devices, inclusive of smart home security gadgets, going for an unlimited data plan makes a lot of sense.

 

Here is a quick intro to our top ISP picks for high-speed internet with unlimited data!  

1- CenturyLink:

CenturyLink is one of the best internet service providers in the U.S., also considered a great rural internet option, given the span of its network in 35+ states. All CenturyLink Fiber and high-speed DSL plans now come with unlimited data, which makes good sense with speeds upwards of 100 Mbps.

Find out more about CenturyLink Simply Unlimited Internet. Or call 1-855-349-9310 to check CenturyLink Fiber availability in your area.

2- Spectrum

Spectrum is one of the most popular ISP choices in the U.S., especially so due to its widespread network coverage. With a footprint in 40+ states, Spectrum ensures to get subscribers the best value for their money, and all plans include unlimited data at competitive prices.

Find out more about Spectrum Internet. Or call 1-844-760-4220 to check offer availability in your area.

3- AT&T

AT&T delivers different types of internet across 21 states. High-speed DSL, Fiber and Fixed Wireless. Its high-speed DSL (IPBB) plans above 75 Mbps offer unlimited data. While fiber internet plans do not carry a data cap at all, albeit AT&T Fiber is not as widely available as one would like. The best part is AT&T unlimited data plans are all competitively priced.

Find out more about AT&T Internet service. Or call 1-844-760-4220 to check offer availability in your area.

4- Rise Broadband

Rise Broadband is one of the best rural internet options for communities removed from the reach of wireline services. Rise Broadband delivers high-speed internet via its fixed wireless network, and offers popular speed tiers i.e. 25 & 50 Mbps with 2 options. You can stick to the 250 GB data limit or go for the unlimited internet option, albeit that costs more.

Find out more about Rise Broadband. Or call 1-844-343-1169 to check offer availability in your area.

 

Bottom Line

For the average U.S. household where internet usage has seen a spike in recent times, internet data usage is sure a concern. While you maybe able to get a cheap internet plan with unlimited data, it is important you understand internet data usage in your home. Because chances are you may not require unlimited data to begin with. An estimate of your data consumption will allow you to choose the better available option, not necessarily the unlimited one, unless data consumption is indeed excessive.

 

FAQs

  1. How many GB does the average home use per month?

The average monthly internet data usage in U.S. households has drastically increased over the years, especially since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. Data usage is said to have peaked at over 400 GB in March 2020, while daily consumption saw a record high of 16.6 GB.

  1. How much data does the internet use per hour?

Different amounts of data is consumed by different online activities. For instance you can expect to use up to 60 MB per hour when you are surfing the web, but even that depends on how heavy is the page itself. A Skype video call for an hour may cost you about 4 MB of data per minute, albeit this number will vary depending on picture resolution. Attending a one-to-one Zoom call can use up to 540 MB for SD video, whereas a Zoom group call may require up to 810 MB internet data.

Netflix in SD consumes up to 1 GB per hour. Watching in HD eats up 3 GB per hour. And, if you are streaming in 4K/UHD it’ll take up to 7 GB out of your data allowance.

  1. How much Internet data does the average person use?

Internet data usage varies from one individual to another, depending on a variety of factors such as the type of online activities conducted, and the number of connected devices. While light users can do well with a 5 GB plan, for moderate usage you may need up to 10 GB. And, if you are into streaming TV and working from home etc. you could require up to 20 GB. However, these are open estimates, and you must understand the internet data usage pattern well enough before putting a number to it. 

  1. Why is my data being used up so quickly?

Your device settings can be one of the many reasons data is running out quickly. Turn off background processes and unnecessary apps, as well as unwanted push notifications, automatic downloads and updates. If you are facing the issue with your mobile broadband plan, try to pre-load your videos and other media files via Wi-Fi, and save mobile data. You can also turn data usage off for particular apps on your smartphone.

  1. How do I stop my phone from using so much data?

There could be many background processes running that you may not be aware of. Phone updates, apps sync, apps refreshing, and other such processes have an impact on your data allowance. Make sure to adjust the settings and limit the use of data for such purposes. Shut down apps from running in the background on your smartphone once you are done using these. Avoid loading content such as YouTube videos over mobile data. Change the auto-download settings to avoid heavy downloads. All these tips can help save mobile data.

  1. What uses up the most internet data?

Video streaming, online games and video chatting apps are among the activities which use the most high-speed internet data. Auto downloads and auto-play features on social media can also increase data usage relative to regular browsing of these platforms.