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What does 1GB of data really mean? Mobile data explained

All muddled up over megabytes? Can’t get your head around gigabytes? We explain exactly what you get for your mobile phone’s data allowance

If you mobile is able to surf the Internet, connect to your social accounts on Facebook and Google+, then whether you aware of it or not, you have a monthly data allowance.

This means is the data use you are allowed in a month without being charged extra. That’s all very well and good but how do you know what is enough, too much or too little when it comes to choosing a data package for your next trip?

We have broken it down into terms that are easy to understand for anyone.

Mobile data explained

Firstly, it’s worth explaining what each unit of measurement is worth.

Some 1,024 kilobytes (KB) make up one megabyte (MB).

The next measurement up is a gigabyte (GB), which is made up of 1,024MB.

As a point of reference, mobile data allowances of 1GB are commonplace nowadays, but deals can start as low as 50MB and rise to as much as 10GB – though this will bump up the cost of your mobile phone deal.

What are the limits of 1GB?

We put the table below together with some help from mobile phone comparison service

It should make understanding how much data you need a little easier.


Average MB use

With 1GB

Surfing the web 1 hour surfing the web 23 44.5 hours
Facebook 1 hour’s use (not including streaming videos) 20 51 hours
Watching TV Streaming a 30-minute episode of Big Bang Theory 100 10 episodes
YouTube Watching a four-minute video 15 68 plays
Email 100 emails sent and received (without attachments) 3 34,133 emails
Google Maps 1 hour’s use 60 17 hours
Skype 30-minute video chat 112 4.5 hours
Spotify Streaming 1 track 4 256 tracks
WhatsApp 100 text-only messages 3 34,133 messages

How to choose your mobile phone data package

Mark Bridge, mobile phone expert and podcast producer at, offers the following tips when it comes to choosing your package:

“Make sure you know what happens when you exceed your mobile data allowance: will you be charged at a higher rate, will the service stop working or will it be restricted for the rest of the month?

“And if you’re worried about how much you’ll pay but are equally worried about being out of touch, look for a truly unlimited data deal.”

Mobile internet and beyond

The more data we use, and the more hungry apps and services become for data, the higher the allowance we’re going to need.

And with 4G offering customers much faster internet connection the amount of data we’re consuming is bound to rise, and with it, the size of data deals.

Bridge says: “Wi-Fi is becoming a selling point, with everyone from supermarkets to bookshops giving away free internet access as an incentive to shoppers.

“Perhaps in the future we won’t need to pay for mobile data at all – we’ll simply connect via Wi-Fi in each shop we visit.”

Data monitoring

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