There are several effective ways to manage your finances, and understanding your data usage is one of them. Our data consumption has increased over the last few years due to the rise of social media and the Internet of Things (IoT). OpenVault’s Broadband Insights Report (OVBI) For the third quarter of 2023 suggests that our data usage has increased by 11% compared to last year. This number clearly indicates how the digital world is evolving, leading many broadband and mobile carriers to offer various data plans.

We know that every online action consumes a certain amount of data. But how much internet data do you actually need? Instead of impulsively buying an internet or mobile plan with a high data allowance, read this comprehensive article to understand your needs so you can avoid unnecessary costs and enjoy the smooth performance of your applications.

How Much Data Do You Need? Assessing Your Data Needs

The amount of data you may need highly depends on your usage. While it is very easy to get lost in the world of gigabytes and terabytes, assessing your online activities and their data consumption can help you identify the right internet data plan.

According to OpenVault’s latest Broadband Insight Report, an average US household consumes 550.2 GB of broadband data every month. On the other hand, extreme power users consume 2 TB or more, which is 35% higher than last year. Their usage is steadily increasing every year due to the advancement of technology. To understand your data requirements, it is essential that you first identify whether you are an average or a power user. You can do that by following these simple steps.

Calculating Your Data Needs

What do you really use the internet for? From sending a photograph in your family group chat to watching endless Instagram reels, every online activity uses a specific amount of data. So, what are your regular online habits? Do you use your connection for streaming? Or for attending virtual meetings? Or do you like to play online games?

  • The first step is to assess your online activities and estimate their data consumption.
  • Multiply each activity’s data by the duration (how many hours or minutes you engage in this activity) and number of days.
  • Add all the values to get an overall estimate of your monthly usage.

For example, if you watch your favorite shows on Netflix in HD for 2 hours every day, and stream music on Spotify for 3 hours every day, you can calculate your monthly data usage as follows:

  • Streaming HD videos on Netflix: 2 hours/day x 3 GB/hour x 30 days = 180 GB or
  • Streaming music on Spotify: 3 hours/day x 144 MB/hour x 30 days = 12,960 MB or 12.96 GB
  • Total monthly usage = 12.96 GB + 180 GB = 192.96 GB

How to Check the Data Usage?

If you already have a broadband or mobile data plan, here is how you can easily monitor your data usage.

Checking Your Mobile Data Usage

It is very easy to monitor your data usage on a smartphone. If you have an iPhone and you want to check the data usage on your current cellphone plan, follow these steps.

  • Go to your phone’s ‘Settings’
  • Click on ‘Mobile Service’
  • Scroll down to ‘Current Period’ to see how much data you have consumed. 

Keep in mind that the data amount will reflect your usage since the last reset and not since your last bill.

The process differs slightly for Android users. If you have an Android phone, you can check your data usage like this:

  • Head to your phone’s ‘Settings’
  • Go to ‘Connections’
  • Scroll down and click ‘Data Usage’ to see the full overview of your monthly data consumption.

Monitor Your Broadband’s Data Usage

Several internet providers like Viasat, HughesNet, Xfinity, and Cox impose data caps on their plans. If you are a customer of one such provider, you can efficiently monitor your data usage through their dedicated apps or websites. For instance, satellite internet providers like Viasat offer the My Viasat App, while HughesNet allows you to track your usage through or the HughesNet Mobile app.

Whereas, Xfinity’s customers can view their data history on its website or its official app. On the other hand, Cox provides a Data Usage Meter to understand your usage patterns. This meter is also available on its app, and you can even add a mini data meter widget on your mobile screen. Moreover, if you have its Panoramic WiFi router, you can use the Panoramic WiFi app to track which devices are consuming the most data in your household.

These apps provide real-time information on how much data you consume in a month, allowing you to understand your usage patterns, identify data-heavy activities, and optimize your internet usage.

Data Needs by Online Activity

You can also figure out your data requirements by assessing your online activities. How exactly do you use your internet connection? Every online activity requires a certain amount of data. So, yes, even the tasks that may seem insignificant, like web browsing and scrolling social media, consume data. 

The amount, however, varies with each activity. But the numbers can pile up, resulting in overage charges and slow internet speeds. Are you unsure about how much data your online activities consume per hour? You can use the Armstrong Data Usage Calculator to get a general idea.   

Online ActivitiesData Used Per Hour
Web Browsing180 MB
Video Streaming500 MB – 8 GB (depending on the quality)
Online Gaming200 MB
Social Media90 MB
Video Calls340 MB – 2 GB (depending on the quality)
Streaming Music10 MB – 150 MB
Podcasts70 MB (depending on the quality)

For Web Browsing

Everything begins with research! Whether it is about finding the best handbag for daily use or the most reasonable course to grow professionally, people mainly use the internet to find information, according to Statista. Web browsing uses a certain amount of data. However, it only consumes 180 MB per hour and takes 5 to 6 hours to use 1 GB of data. If you only use the internet for browsing, you can opt for a plan with a low monthly allowance to save some money.

For Video Streaming

Videos are not only a great source of entertainment. They are also helpful in learning new skills. You should understand the data requirements for video streaming if you are an avid viewer. This can help you choose a suitable plan to watch your favorite shows and online streams. Video streaming is one of the few data-hungry online activities. The amount, however, depends on the video quality and the platform.

For instance, a 4K video consumes 8 GB per hour. While this resolution may let you experience a sharper image quality, it also gobbles up your data. On the other hand, HD videos can use up to 2 GB per hour, which is significantly lower than 4K video streaming. But if you want to reduce your monthly data usage, you can watch your favorite videos in SD, as this resolution only consumes 500 MB per hour.

Video Streaming QualityData Used Per Hour
Standard Definition500 MB
High Definition2 GB
4K8 GB

To Work from Home

Many offices work in hybrid mode, and numerous employees prefer to work from home. But does your plan offer sufficient data for remote working? Generally, working from home requires only 8 to 10 GB of data, depending on your activities. However, you may need more data if your office frequently engages in team bonding activities and has multiple Zoom meetings. But if your daily tasks only require sending emails, document editing, and light web browsing, then you will only need 3 GB.

Work From Home ActivitiesData Used
Zoom Calls (1:1)480p: 540 MB/hr.
720p: 1.08 GB/hr.
1080p: 1.62 GB/hr.
Zoom Calls (Group)480p: 810 MB/hr.
720p: 1.35 GB/hr.
1080p: 2.4 GB/hr.
Emails10 MB per 13 emails

For Online Gaming

Gaming is a popular hobby, and online games give you the freedom to play on multiple devices like mobile phones, smart TVs, or your browser. However, if you can only access internet or mobile plans with monthly data caps, you might want to stay within the limits to avoid overage charges.

Online games generally use 200 MB of data per hour, but this number can vary depending on the type of game, its settings, and graphics. In the end, your monthly data requirements for gaming will also depend on how much you game in a day. If you only play online games for an hour a day, you will need approximately 6 GB per month for gaming. But if you are a gaming enthusiast, you can expect your gaming data to be more than 15 GB.

For Using Social Media

Social media is invaluable for accessing real-time information, connecting with communities, and building your brand. Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook have become increasingly popular. Almost everyone uses at least one social media platform. The best part is that you don’t need a lot of data to scroll through social media. Although the data requirements of these platforms are low, they differ from one another. For example, Facebook only uses 80 MB per hour, but video-sharing apps like TikTok and Instagram require more data.

Social Media PlatformsData Used Per Hour
Facebook90 MB
Instagram720 MB
X (formerly Twitter)360 MB
TikTok840 MB

For Video Calls

Video calls are a crucial part of the business world. As a result, most of us are familiar with top video conferencing software like Skype, Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc. Like social media platforms, these apps consume different amounts of data. But, on average, video calling software uses between 340 MB to 2 GB of data per hour.

Video Call QualityData Used Per Hour
SD340 MB

For Music and Podcast

There are many apps for streaming music these days. If you love to stream music on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music, then you need to keep in mind that the data consumption of these apps can range from 10 to 150 MB per hour. This is because the data usage for music streaming depends on the platform and the quality of the stream. For instance, an hour of normal-quality music streaming will use around 45 MB, but higher-quality streams require more data.

Podcasts are also an increasingly popular tool for entertainment. If you love listening to your favorite comedy, true crime, or lifestyle podcasts, then remember that the average stream uses 70 MB per hour. But you will use 120 MB per hour if you prefer high-quality streams.

Music Streaming PlatformsData Used Per Hour
Spotify144 MB
Apple Music115 MB
YouTube Music144 MB
Deezer43.2 MB – 115.2 MB

Understanding Data Plans: Types of Data Plans

While many mobile carriers offer varying data plans, internet providers usually deliver plans with unlimited data. However, some top names like Xfinity and Cox impose data restrictions on their customers. It is common for people to make uninformed decisions, which often leads them to settle for an insufficient data allowance or an expensive plan.

There is no harm in being cautious and choosing unlimited data plans, but if you are a light user, you should not spend more money on data you don’t actually need. The first step in identifying the most suitable plan is to learn about their types.

Unlimited Data vs. Capped Data

Data plans are broadly categorized into limited and unlimited plans. Mobile carriers and internet providers impose data caps to promote fair network usage. Although most internet providers have moved on to offering unlimited data plans, not all home internet connections are unlimited. Satellite internet providers like HughesNet and Viasat still enforce data caps on their plans. Cable internet providers like Xfinity and Cox also restrict your usage. But unlike other names, Xfinity only imposes data caps in certain areas.

In contrast, the majority of mobile carriers offer data plans at varying rates based on the amount of data. However, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have some unlimited data options. On the other hand, most MVNOs also advertise ‘Unlimited’ plans, but they are not truly unlimited. Instead, they offer high-speed data and then throttle your speed once you exceed that limit. These wireless data plans allow you to access the internet on the go, especially in locations where Wi-Fi hotspots are unavailable.

Best Internet Data Plans 

It is not easy to pick a data plan if you haven’t done your homework. We have highlighted all the ways you can assess your usage requirements, and now it’s time to move on to the best home internet and mobile data plans available in the market.

Best Home Internet Plans with Data Caps

Every internet plan has its pros and cons. Although unlimited plans are becoming more common, they may not be available in all areas. As a result, many individuals have to rely on capped internet plans. Some cable companies offer plans with a generous 1 GB cap. But for most households, this data is practically unlimited. Moreover, cable internet providers also serve specific locations, even those with wide availability.

Therefore, satellite internet providers like HughesNet and Viasat are a compelling alternative for those living in rural areas. Both companies offer competitive data plans with varying caps, but Viasat takes the lead in providing more data. So, who offers the best internet data plan?

Internet ProvidersStarting PriceMaximum Data Cap
HughesNet$49.99/mo.200 GB
Viasat$49.99/mo.500 GB
*Promotional price
**Viasat’s plans and pricing vary with location
***Requires a 2-year contract

Data usage, geographical location, and speed requirements are some factors that make it impossible to specify a singular best plan. We all have different usage patterns. Some people use their home internet connection casually, while others use it as a primary source for everything. To simplify everything, we have sorted the best internet data plans into three categories according to the users’ data consumption. 

Best Home Internet Data Plan for Low Usage

If you only use the internet for mundane tasks, like scrolling on social media, checking the news, browsing the web, or sending or receiving emails, then HughesNet has a perfect plan for you. HughesNet Select, with a starting price of $49.99 a month, offers a speed up to 50 Mbps and has priority data up to 100 GB. The speed and data allowance make HughesNet Select suitable for light internet users. The best quality of this plan is its nationwide availability.

HughesNet Select
Starting Price $49.99/mo. for 12 mos.
Regular Price $74.99/mo.
Internet Speed Up to 50 Mbps
Priority Data 100 GB
Best For Web browsing
Social media
Streaming music/podcasts
Online shopping
Designed For Small households

Best Home Internet Data Plan for Moderate Users

You might be a moderate user if your activities are slightly more intensive. Viasat Internet 100 is the best home internet data plan for people who often attend video conferences, love downloading music, and occasionally watch online content. This plan provides 100 Mbps speed with 300 GB of high-speed data. However, with a starting price of $149.99 a month, it is quite expensive than other options. This price also only lasts for the first three months, after which you have to pay $199.99 per month.

Viasat Internet 100
Starting Price $149.99/mo. for 3 mos.
Regular Price $199.99/mo.
Internet Speed Up to 100 Mbps
High-speed Data 300 GB
Best For Video conferencing
HD streaming
Multi-player gaming
Designed For 4 people
*The availability and price of Viasat Internet 100 varies depending on the location.

Best Home Internet Data Plan for Power Users

Viasat also has a perfect plan for heavy data users. Its Internet 150 is a solid combination of good internet speed and high data allowance. Viasat Internet 150 is designed for data-consuming applications and activities, allowing you to do everything, from streaming 4K content to multi-player gaming. However, like all the other Viasat internet plans, it is quite expensive. It costs $200 a month for the first three months and then $300 per month.

Viasat Internet 150
Starting Price $199.99/mo. for 3 mos.
Regular Price $299.99/mo.
Internet Speed Up to 150 Mbps
High-speed Data 500 GB
Best For Video conferencing in HD
4K streaming
Competitive gaming
Designed For 5 people
*The availability and price of Viasat Internet 150 varies based on your location.

Best Mobile Data Plans

You can only get the most out of your smartphone with the best data plan. Like broadband, finding the best mobile data plan can be challenging. Three major Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) rule the wireless service market: T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. However, several top Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), like Spectrum Mobile and Mint Mobile, also serve many areas. 

The best and worst thing about mobile data plans is that you have many options, unlike home internet services. While this gives you the freedom to choose what you like, finding the most valuable plan can also be tricky. So, which provider offers the best data plan?

AT&T$30.00/mo.5 GB
Verizon$60.00/mo.25 GB
T-Mobile$70.00/mo. (for a single line)100 GB

Best Mobile Data Plan for Light Users

AT&T’s Prepaid 5 GB is perfect for people with minimal mobile data requirements. The plan only costs $30 a month, making it the most affordable option among the competition. AT&T Prepaid 5 GB provides enough data to perform your basic online activities on the go and includes ActiveArmor Mobile Security to make your experience more secure. Plus, it has the second-best 4G LTE and 5G network in the country, making it a dependable option for your needs.

AT&T Prepaid 5 GB
Monthly Price $30.00/mo. + taxes & fees
High-Speed Data 5 GB
5G Access
Unlimited Talk & Text
AT&T ActiveArmor Mobile Security
Mobile Hotspot
Best For SD streaming
*Speed is reduced to 128 Kbps if you exceed high-speed data

Best Mobile Data Plan for Moderate Users

If your data consumption requirements are higher than light users, Verizon’s Prepaid 25 GB is your best choice. This data plan allows you to engage in a diverse range of online activities, including streaming in HD. This plan includes unlimited talk and text, 5G access, and hotspot data and offers savings of up to $30 per line when you add more. With the best 4G LTE network in the country, Verizon Wireless is an excellent choice for doing what you love the most.

Verizon Prepaid 25 GB
Monthly Price $60.00/mo.
High-Speed Data 25 GB
5G Access
Unlimited Talk & Text
Mobile Hotspot
Multi-line Discount Save $30 per line
Best For HD streaming

Best Mobile Data Plan for Heavy Users

If you rely heavily on mobile data, you might need more than 25 GB. T-Mobile’s Go5G is a decent choice for heavy users as it offers 100 GB of premium and 15 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data. The plan also features 5G access, unlimited talk and text, and a multi-line discount, and allows you to stream in standard definition. You can also activate HD streaming through media settings.

Besides all the features, T-Mobile Go5G provides entertainment perks, like one basic screen of Netflix and six months of AppleTV+. T-Mobile Go5G can meet the large data requirements of power users, but you can opt for completely unlimited data plans if you require more data.

T-Mobile Go5G
Monthly Price for Single Line $75.00/mo. + taxes & fees
Premium Data 100 GB
5G Access
Unlimited Talk & Text
Mobile Hotspot 15 GB
Multi-line Discount
Best For SD streaming (You can activate up to 720p)
*Price with AutoPay discount


Every online activity, from downloading movies, music, and photographs to uploading videos and content, contributes to our data usage. However, data consumption is not fixed and varies from user to user, depending on their online habits. Understanding your usage patterns and your activities’ data requirements can help you save an incredible amount. We have created a comprehensive guide on internet data, so instead of compulsively buying the most expensive data plan, you can choose the most appropriate option based on an estimate.