Mobile Broadband – what data limit do I need?

Mobile broadband is really coming of age, there are more and more great plans being offered by the main providers – T-Mobile, 3, Vodafone, O2 and Orange – all enabling easy mobile internet access.

Mobile broadband data limitWhen choosing a mobile broadband plan you need to think about how you want to use your mobile internet access.

For example, what performance and data usage do you need, do you want the access for a one-off, short time or on a regular basis?

Before you sign-up to any plan, one of the key things you need to consider is how much usage you will need each month, how much data you’ll be downloading.

The cheapest mobile broadband plans usually come with 1GB of data. The more expensive, often longer contract term plans, usually offer greater data limits, currently up to 15GB offered by 3 on their 18 or 24 month pay monthly plans.

Even with PAYG mobile broadband there are fixed amounts of data available. For example TopUp and Go from Vodafone comes with 3GB data, valid for 30 days and with O2 Pay and Go there’s an option for 3GB data, valid for 30 days.

How to calculate your mobile broadband data limit requirement

To calculate what level of data limit you need, you must consider what you will do with your mobile broadband access.

You might need to break this down into per day or per week usage and then collate to get an overall view for the month.

There are a number of online mobile broadband usage calculators available to help with this process, but as a guide things to cover might include

  • How many emails do you send and receive?
  • How many minutes do you spend on Instant Messaging?
  • How many minutes do you surf the web?
  • How many minutes of music files do you download, including albums and playlists?
  • How many minutes of video or films do you download, including YouTube clips?
  • How many games or software updates do you download?
  • How many photos do you upload or download?

As a very rough guide, consider the following data sizes:

1MB =

  • 100 emails without attachments or
  • 3 emails with attachments or
  • 1 email with photo attached or
  • 1 hour on Instant Messanger


  • 8 hours surfing the web or
  • 20 MP3 music downloads, 3 minutes each or
  • 2 video downloads, 5 minutes each

The amount of data you need per month can then be calculated. You can quickly see that if you limit yourself to 1GB you’ll be limited on what you can do.

If you find doing all the calculations yourself, it might be easier to use an online broadband calculator!

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