Banner graphic for SafeWise's Australian health insurance comparison

How much mobile data do you need?

A per-activity breakdown of the kind of hourly data usage expectations you should have for common mobile data tasks.

Nathan Lawrence
Mar 12, 2021
Icon Time To Read5 min read

It’s no secret that faster download speeds tend to lead to increased data usage. So now that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are rolling out incredibly speedy 5G mobile networks, it’s important to identify just how much mobile data you need to get through the month.

A December 2019 report from the ACCC notes that the average data usage for October 2019 to December 2019 in Australia was 7.7GB per month, with an 8% increase since the previous June 2019 report. Using this 8% increase-per-quarter logic, the average data usage for October 2020 to December 2020 would have been around 8.5GB and, in the first quarter of 2021, would be approximately 9.2GB per month.

That ACCC report notes that mobile broadband had the highest average download volume (10.3GB) and Prepaid had the lowest at 4.5GB. You can check out our monthly picks of the best mobile phone plans in Australia or the best cheap mobile plans, but scroll on for a breakdown of data usage based on common mobile internet tasks.

How much mobile data do everyday users need?

For our best Prepaid and best SIM Only mobile plan pages, we work on the logic that the average everyday user needs at least 10GB of data to comfortably get through the month. This amount of data gives you around 2.3GB of data to work with in a week or around 328MB a day, which isn’t a stack.

That’s why our everyday recommendations are for users who don’t tend to dabble in data-draining activities like videoconferencing, video streaming and hours of social media. Basically, if you’re engaging with content that has videos, particularly the kind that play automatically, expect to use more mobile data each month. If you're looking for a plan with a lot of mobile data, be sure to check out our picks for the best unlimited data mobile plans.

You can see 10 of the most popular SIM Only plans below that have at least 10GB of data (this list updates daily).

And below is a daily updating list of the most popular Prepaid plans with at least 10GB of data.

For those after a data-only SIM for compatible tablets or WiFi dongles, below is a daily updating list of the most popular picks.

How much mobile data do heavy users need?

We use 30GB a month as the minimum amount for recommending big-data plans across our best SIM Only and best Prepaid mobile plan picks. That’s a good foundational baseline to work with when considering a plan with a solid amount of monthly data, but the reality is there are a lot of plans available today that easily surpass this amount.

For instance, Circles.Life has a popular 100GB Monthly Plan that costs under $40 a month (it’s even cheaper with promo pricing) for 4G-speed data, while the $119 Optus One Plan comes with 500GB of data to use on the Optus 5G network. If you don’t want to worry about data usage at all, check out the limitless data of Felix Mobile, which is capped at a very reasonable 20Mbps to comfortably tackle all manner of mobile online activities on your phone.

Below is a daily updating list of the most popular SIM Only plans with at least 30GB of data.

And you can see a list of the most popular daily updating Prepaid plans that have a minimum of 30GB.

Which online activities use the most mobile data?

Streaming is the big thing to watch out for when it comes to monitoring your mobile data usage. Whether you’re making video calls via Zoom, watching Netflix and YouTube videos, or streaming lossless music on services like Tidal. All of these chew through multiple megabytes every minute, which stacks up the longer you interact with them.

Scroll on for a breakdown of common online tasks and how much mobile data you can expect them to use.

How much mobile data does emailing and web browsing use?

Around 60MB per hour

Bear in mind that this doesn’t count image-heavy or video-stuffed sites, but basic web browsing uses around 60MB per hour. Similarly, while sent or received attachments will up the data usage of an email (only if sending or opening a received attachment), emails don’t tend to use even 1MB per email. Basically, you don’t have to factor in basic web browsing and email too heavily into your monthly data considerations.

If all you want mobile data for is browsing and emailing, you can take a look at popular SIM Only plans below that have at least 1GB of data and don’t cost more than $30 a month.

How much mobile data do video calls use?

Up to 1.6GB per hour

How much data you’re using per hour of video call really depends on what you’re using to make the calls. Apple users have it the most efficient with around 180MB of data usage per hour for FaceTime calls, which jumps to 480MB for Duo calls on Android handsets. There’s an even bigger usage leap with third-party software like Skype, which uses around 1.35GB per hour for an HD call to one other person, while Zoom uses up to 1.6GB per hour of HD one-on-one call. Bear in mind these data numbers go even higher for Skype and Zoom if you’re video calling multiple people.

Below is a daily updating list of the most popular SIM Only plans that include at least 20GB of data.

How much mobile data does Netflix and other video streaming use?

Up to 3.25GB per hour

Netflix defaults to an automatic setting on mobile devices, which equates to four hours of viewing per 1GB of data. Though it’s recommended for unlimited-data plans only, streaming quality can be maxed out, which will use around 3GB of data per hour.

Stan has similar numbers and can use up to 2.89GB per hour, while Prime Video uses roughly 2GB per hour. Sports fans should prep to use around 3.25GB per hour of Kayo streaming, though.

You want plenty of data to regularly stream video via mobile data, which is why we’ve generated the daily updating list below of the most popular SIM Only plans that have at least 50GB of monthly data to play with.

How much mobile data does social media use?

Up to 720MB per hour.

There’s some big variance in social media data usage, depending on the service and what you’re doing. Facebook, for instance, can use as little as 80MB per hour or up to 160MB per hour if you’re watching videos. Snapchat is similar at around 160MB per hour, but even though it’s mainly dealing with photographs, Instagram uses around 720B per hour. Twitter data usage varies greatly depending on whether you’re only using it to post text, or whether you’re scrolling through tweets filled with images and/or video.

Below is a daily updating list of the most popular SIM Only plans with at least 10GB of data.

How much mobile data does gaming use?

Up to 100MB per hour.

Even on PCs and next-gen gaming consoles, online gaming doesn’t use up anywhere near as much data as you might expect, even if the core game download and subsequent patches can stretch into lots of gigabytes (update games on WiFi to avoid blitzing through mobile data). Mobile games tend to be better optimised for mobile data usage needs, which means they tend to use less data than their dedicated gaming-platform counterparts. Games may use as little as 20MB per hour or it can stretch up to around 100MB per hour.

Below is a list of the most popular SIM Only plans (which update daily) with at least 4GB of monthly data.

How much mobile data does music streaming use?

Up to 4.15GB per hour.

Like video streaming, hourly data usage of music streaming varies depending on the service you’re using and the quality of the audio playback. Apple Music, for instance, maxes out at around 115MB per hour of playback, which is the same story for YouTube Music and SoundCloud. That said, Apple Music’s hourly data usage can also be negated by signing up with a telco like Boost or Telstra, both of which were offering data-free streaming of Apple Music at the time of writing.

Spotify has a higher max streaming quality than Apple Music, but even that only stretches up to around 144MB of data per hour of music streaming. Where things get heftier is with music streaming services that offer lossless audio quality. Amazon Music can use as much as 1.68GB per hour for its lossless streaming, while Tidal goes as high as 4.15GB per hour.

Fans of lossless music streaming should look to SIM Only plans with plenty of data, which is why the daily updating list below is for popular plans with at least 70GB of monthly data.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

Related Articles