Using smartphones and tablets to access the Internet has become a popular daily activity for many mobile data users. Data is consumed whenever a mobile data user is connected to the Internet, whether for sending or receiving emails, downloading streaming music, songs, videos or apps, or simply browsing web pages. This document aims to help mobile data users keep track of how much data is consumed with the more common Internet applications.
Mobile data users may access the Internet with either a fixed or mobile device, including desktop computer, smartphone, tablet, USB modem, or netbook. Data is consumed whenever a user surfs the Internet. Activities such as uploading and downloading information, sending or receiving e-mails, or using Internet applications like social networking, on-line maps, videos and music downloads all consume data. Some automatic update functions of these devices, such as the function for updating emails or applications, do also consume data.
Data usage is usually measured in units known as gigabyte (GB), megabyte (MB) or kilobyte (kB), with -
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The amount of data a user needs depends on what he uses the Internet for, and the frequency of usage. Streaming movies, downloading songs and playing certain games typically consume a lot of data. For example, about 180 MB is consumed for viewing a one-hour low-definition video, but the data usage will surge to 600 MB for watching a high-definition video of the same length.
Much less data is consumed if the user is just engaged in sending a few emails or doing some light Internet browsing. For example, sending one email without attachment only consumes about 15 kB of data.
The table below summarizes the data usage for the more common activities -
|Activities||Data Consumed (for reference only)|
|Send one e-mail (without attachment)||15 kB|
|Send one e-mail with medium quality compressed photo attachment||300 kB|
|Upload one social media post with photo||500 kB|
|Browse one webpage||1 MB|
|Download a one-minute compressed music or streaming music file||1 MB|
|Download one minute of streaming low definition video||3 MB|
|Download one game or song||4 MB|
|Download one minute of high definition video||10 MB|
Note : The above examples are based on averages using a smartphone and are estimates only. The actual amount of data used for each activity can vary significantly.
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As at end 2011, the average monthly data usage of each mobile data subscriber in Hong Kong is about 450 MB. Moreover, based on the information provided by the industry, the majority of mobile data users should use not more than 2 GB of data per month.
The following table provides an example of a combination of the activities that may consume 2 GB of data in a month -
|Activities||Frequency of Activities Per Day|
|Send or receive e-mail (without attachment)||20 e-mails|
|Send or receive e-mail (with attachment)||10 e-mails|
|Streaming music||5 minutes|
|Streaming video||5 minutes|
|Web browsing||25 pages|
|Download songs||2 songs|
|Social media post with photo upload||20 posts|
Note : The above are estimates only for illustrative purpose.
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Data speed refers to how fast data is transmitted to/from our equipment or device. It is usually measured in units of megabit per second (Mbps) or kilobit per second (kbps). 1 Mbps equals 1000 kbps. Downloading a song of 4 MB requires less than 40 seconds if the data speed is 1 Mbps. The same song requires a much longer time of five minutes to download if the data speed is 128 kbps, the typical speed for 2.5 G (i.e. 2.5 Generation) service.
Generally speaking, if the data is primarily used for web surfing, there is no need for a very fast Internet connection. However, if the Internet is used for downloading files (for example music, video, etc), speed and performance would be more important. These factors will affect how many downloads can be done at one time and how long they will take.
For example, listening to an on-line Internet radio program requires about 30 kbps. However, a low definition video on an on-line video website requires a download speed of 300 kbps for a satisfactory user experience. For an access speed of 128 kbps, we should have no problem listening to Internet radio, using on-line texting, sending/receiving e-mails or other services which do not require real-time high speed data transfer. However, for video streaming, transmission speed higher than 128 kbps is needed in order to achieve satisfactory viewing experience.
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To avoid any unnecessary mobile bill charges, mobile data users are advised to keep track of their data usage from time to time. Smartphones usually come with a data service usage counter. Mobile data users may also install apps which check or control data consumption.
Upon paying a small service charge, certain mobile network operators will also send short-messaging alerts periodically to mobile data users providing them with data usage volume updates. Mobile data users can also check the volume of data consumed through the following channels (provided by most service operators):
A data usage calculator has been posted on the website of the Office of the Communications Authority, which serves as a tool for mobile data users to estimate the amount of data usage they require per month. Users may visit this link to access the data usage calculator.
Office of the Communications Authority
1 April 2012
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