Managing your data usage

Many internet and mobile plans now offer data allowances that you can use on your phone or device to do things like browse the internet, send and receive email, and use other apps, like GPS, twitter and Facebook. Using such services can be useful and convenient, but it can also end up being expensive if you use them too much.

How much data do I need?

The amount of data you need depends on how you want to use the features. Some types of files or features use a lot of data. These include:

  • downloading music, photos, movies and software
  • software updates
  • streaming video (such as YouTube)
  • playing online games
  • sending emails with large files attached (such as video, music or picture files)
  • uploading—some internet plans count uploading files towards your total data use, such as loading photos and videos onto your social networking homepage
  • video and voice calling.

If you plan to regularly do any of these things, a larger data allowance will suit you better. If you mainly browse the web and send emails, a smaller allowance may be enough.

Excess data charges

Many mobile plans will give you a fixed data allowance for a monthly fee. For example, for $50 a month you might get 1 GB of data (as well as a voice call and SMS allowance). This means that as long as you only use 1GB or data or less you shouldn’t have to pay anything more than $50 a month for data services. However, once you go over the 1 GB allowance you will be charged extra for the data you use at a much higher rate.

For example, say that the excess data rate for the $50 per month plan is $0.15/MB, and you use 1.5GB (or 1500 MB) of data in a month. You will exceed your monthly data allowance by 500 MB, which will cost you an extra $75 on top of your $50 monthly fee.

Manage your spend 

There are lots of things that you can do to make sure you stay within your data allowance so you avoid getting hit with excess data charges.

Track your data usage

There are a number of different ways that you can try and keep track of how much data you’ve used during a month:

  • many mobile providers have tools that allow you to track your data usage during a billing period. Sometimes this information will be available when you login to the providers’ website. Some providers even have apps which you can download to your mobile that let you check how much of your data you’ve used. Take care when using these monitoring tools as there can sometimes be a delay in updating the usage information
  • there are also a number of independent apps for tracking your usage that you can download to your phone. If you decide to use such a service take care that it can track your usage accurately, and that the usage information it has provided you is up to date
  • from September 2013 for large providers and September 2014 for small providers, your mobile phone provider will be required to provide you with spend management alerts when you reach 50%, 85% and 100% of your voice, SMS and data allowance.

Understand data rates for different activities

Knowing how much data different activities, like emailing, browsing the internet, and streaming video or audio content use can also help you to keep you data use in check. Some mobile providers also provide tools to help you estimate your data usage.

Example:

Activity

Data used

Sending or receiving 40 emails without attachments

2 MB

Visiting 5 different web pages

2 MB

Browsing Facebook for 10 minutes

3 MB

Streaming 10 minutes of audio content

10 MB

Streaming 10 minutes of video on YouTube (standard definition)

70 MB

Making a 10 minute call on Skype (standard not video)

10 MB

Uploading 10 photos

40 MB

Note: this information is intended to be a rough guide only. Data usage of different apps may vary.

Reduce your data usage

There are also steps you can take to minimise your data usage:

  • whenever possible use Wi-Fi instead of 3G or 4G data services. Set your phone up to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks that you use frequently (like your home Wi-Fi) and take advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots
  • don’t use apps or services which use up a lot of data, like downloading or streaming videos or audio, on your mobile unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. You can often adjust the settings on your phone so that such apps don’t use 3G or 4G data services
  • turn off apps or features of your phone which automatically use up data. Some phone features, like push notifications, use up data in the background and can be easily turned off
  • manually shut applications you use on your phone to make sure they don’t keep using data in the background. Some apps keep running in the background even after you’ve exited them. 

If it’s not right, use your rights

More information

Internet & phone