How much data do I need for home internet?

Family in home using internet on multiple devices

Home internet is critical for you and your family to stay connected. It’s important to understand what internet data use is and how much your family needs to do what you love, like streaming videos, online gaming, checking social media and video chatting.

This article will shed light on data usage and how to make the best choice for your home.

What is internet data?

Internet data is used when you connect to the internet to browse the web, play an online video game, upload or download files or stream videos and movies. Basically, it enables you to access the internet.

The data that grants you access to the internet at home enters your house through a cable from the street, such as through copper cables or fiber cables — where a modem picks up the internet signal from the internet service provider. A router then picks up the data and transmits it over Wi-Fi. Mobile data, although also wireless, is transmitted through a nearby cellular tower instead of Wi-Fi.

Usually, your internet data plan is a representation of the connection and speed to the modem. On the other hand, Wi-Fi represents an extension of such a connection. Therefore, on its own, Wi-Fi is not a specific service. Some mobile and broadband internet plans allow you access to Wi-Fi through hotspots found in numerous locations all around the country.

How does internet data usage work?

Internet data moves in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes. There are 8 bits of data in 1 byte, 1,000 bytes in a kilobyte, 1,000 kilobytes in a megabyte and 1,000 megabytes in a gigabyte.

The amount of data — either in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes or gigabytes — transferred between the internet and your device in a given period is known as internet usage. All activities that use the internet in your home contribute to your data usage. These include surfing the internet, scrolling through social media, using smart home devices, enjoying online entertainment — like streaming videos, music and playing online games — and uploading and downloading files.

The devices you use, such as a computer, smartphone or tablet, can also influence your data usage. For instance, using a computer to stream videos or browse the internet generally consumes more data than using a tablet or smartphone. This is because, when accessing websites on your computer, you’re accessing the desktop version of the website. The scripting language will take into consideration the larger screen size, which means more data. Additionally, video quality and resolution are often better when using a computer rather than other devices.

For the same reason, a tablet consumes more data than a smartphone. And even when your devices aren’t in use, some apps may use background data. This can impact your overall data usage over time.

Generally, internet data is used in two ways:

  • Downloading information
  • Uploading information

When downloading information, the data is transferred from the internet to your device. It, therefore, encompasses:

  • Surfing the internet
  • Opening files received via email
  • Streaming video and audio content
  • Receiving messages during an online conversation

Conversely, when uploading information, the data is transferred from your device to the internet. Uploads, therefore, consist of files sent during an online conversation — including text responses to a chat — attachments sent via email and uploading pictures or videos to a social media platform. Both data uploads and downloads can affect your internet data usage.

Monitoring or keeping track of your data usage can be quite challenging. That’s why a data calculator comes in handy. A good data calculator will make it easier to track your daily, weekly or monthly data usage. As the billing cycle approaches, this can help you decide if you need to change internet plans to increase or decrease the amount of data you buy.

What uses a lot of internet data?

Various internet activities consume large amounts of data. However, overall data consumption is also dependent on the type of device used. Once you know the things that use a lot of internet data, you can make changes to minimize how you consume your data. Below are some internet activities that are capable of using a lot of data.

  • System upgrades: Upgrading either your computer, tablet or even mobile device can require huge amounts of data. For instance, you will need about 3 GB to upgrade to a Windows 10 operating system. About the same amount of data is required to upgrade to the latest version of macOS Big Sur Upgrading from older versions, say from macOS Catalina to Big Sur, will require more data. And while mobile upgrades consume less data, some mobile operating systems, like Android and Apple, put restrictions on cellular data usage. So, both system and large app updates can only be downloaded through Wi-Fi.
  • HD video streaming: Watching HD videos or movies on streaming platforms like YouTube, Hulu or Netflix can take a toll on your data. The reason is that the video content and video quality received affect the amount of data consumed. The bandwidth consumption of HD videos can range from 4 Mbps to 8 Mbps. Most platforms allow you to adjust the video’s quality so you don’t have to experience buffering due to a slow connection. Additionally, you can often set your video quality preferences. So, you can choose average quality to keep your data usage lower instead of going for the best quality possible, which will consume more data.
  • Online gaming: The data consumption of online gaming varies depending on the type of game you’re playing and the device you’re using. For example, some Xbox multiplayer games consume a lot of data, especially when downloading or during upgrades.
  • Video uploads and downloads: Sometimes, you may wish to download your favorite movie instead of streaming it to watch later. Downloading a high-quality video requires a lot of data. For videos with the same file sizes, uploading consumes data similar to downloads. For example, if you upload a video to the cloud and later want to download it, the download will consume the same internet data.
  • Other large file downloads: Large file downloads, like software configuration files, files with many graphics and applications are also capable of using a lot of data. Even indirect data usage, like automatic cloud backups, can consume an appreciable amount of data.

What doesn’t use very much internet data?

Although some internet-based activities consume large amounts of data, a majority of internet activities consume little or no data. Below are some activities that don’t require a lot of data.

  • Phone calls or video conferencing: The amount of data consumed by phone calls or even video conferencing is usually not as large as many people assume. Voice calls can use between 50 KB and 500 KB per minute depending on the app you’re using. Video calls can use between 3 MB and 9 MB per minute for standard-definition calls depending on the app and between 7.5 MB and 18 MB per minute for high-definition calls.
  • Surfing the internet: Browsing the web doesn’t require much internet data if you only read text and view pictures. The average size of a webpage is about 2.5 MB. Usually, a website with graphics-rich content, including videos and images, will ordinarily have a larger size than a text-rich website, such as blogs.
  • Checking email and social media: Sending or reading plain text emails doesn’t need much data either. Assuming the average size of a plain-text email is 20 KB, you’d need to send and receive about 7,500 emails to reach 150 MB. Even if we assume 400 KB per email with an attachment, you’d still need to send and receive 375 emails to reach 150 MB. The bottom line is that email should be less of a worry when it comes to data usage.
  • Music streaming: Streaming music doesn’t typically require large amounts of data. Although the amount of data used depends on the streaming service you’re using, on average, music streaming uses about 2.5 MB per minute.

How much data do you need for home internet?

The amount of daily, weekly and monthly data usage is dependent on what you use the internet for and how much you use it. Streaming HD videos, watching Netflix movies and downloading large files consume more data than just surfing the internet or checking social media.

A good way to know how much data you need for a home network is to review your household’s daily internet habits. You can easily use it as a yardstick to calculate the monthly internet requirements for your home.

How much internet data does the average person use a month?

How much internet data you consume depends largely on the specific online activities you perform and how frequently you carry out such activities.

To help you get a clearer picture, below is a rough estimate of how much data various activities consume:

  • Streaming a standard-definition movie consumes about 1.9 GB in two hours.
  • Streaming high-definition movies can use up to 4.2 GB in two hours.
  • Netflix streaming consumes about 644 MB an hour.
  • YouTube streaming can use up to 429 MB an hour.
  • Streaming one 40-minute music album consisting of 10 tracks will consume about 80 MB.
  • Online gaming will use 43 MB of data in an hour.
  • Downloading a high-quality picture requires about 5 MB of data, on average.
  • Other activities, like messaging, surfing the net, etc., consume negligible amounts compared to the above.

With this, it becomes easier to figure out the amount of data a typical American household uses each month.

Choose an ISP with no internet data caps

Frontier® Internet plans come with unlimited data and no data caps or overage charges. Once you subscribe to any of the internet options available from Frontier, you can use the internet as much as you want without any extra fees.

If your household requires lightning fast internet, say speed capable range as fast as 940 Mbps, consider Frontier® Fiber Internet. With symmetrical upload and download speeds and the latest fiber-optic technology, you can get the internet connection that you deserve.

No matter your internet activities, Frontier is committed to providing the right internet connection for your household. And with all of our internet plans coming with unlimited data, the last thing you’ll have to worry about is your data usage. Check plan availability in your location using our coverage maps.

Max speeds are wired. WiFi actual and average speed may vary. See performance details at frontier.com/internetdisclosures.