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Is 100GB of data enough?

25th April 2022

100GB Data

Arguably the biggest choice you’ll be making on a SIM Only plan is not which network to go with but how much monthly data to opt for. This is the main thing affecting the price, and the main factor that could hold you back if you don’t have enough – or lead to an excessive spend if you pay for more than you need.

Even if you’re buying a new smartphone, the choice of how much data to get with it is almost as important as the choice of the phone itself.

So here we’re going to look at just how far one of the more commonly available data limits – 100GB – actually goes, so you can get a better idea of whether this is the right limit for you, or whether you should get more or less data.

How much data does the average person use?

There’s no exact answer to that question when looking purely at UK users – or at least not a publicly available one, but according to research carried out by Ericsson in 2021, the average mobile data use globally is over 10GB per month.

So that’s only 10% of a 100GB data allowance, however there’s evidence that in the UK, the average might be higher.

That’s because Three claimed in December 2021 that its customers were using 19GB of data on average each month. So that’s almost twice as much as the global average, but still only 19% of a 100GB allowance.

And Three’s average might be higher than other networks – in fact, it probably is, since Three claims to carry more data than any other UK mobile network. So perhaps the actual average is in the middle somewhere, at around 15GB, but that’s just a guess.

What’s clear is that the average UK person uses a lot less data than 100GB.

Is 100GB of data enough?

100GB Data Sample Usage

Activity

How far 100GB will go

Web browsing/social media

Upwards of 900 hours

Instant messaging

3,200,000 messages

Music streaming

Around 680 hours

Video streaming

33 - 600 hours

Online gaming

At least 333 hours

Video calling

333 – 400 hours

Whether 100GB of data will be enough entirely depends on how you use your phone, but the chart above outlines roughly how far 100GB will go with different usage scenarios, and we’ve explained the numbers more below.

Web browsing/social media

If you’re mostly just web browsing or browsing social media then 100GB is far more than you’ll ever need, as data use for these activities typically ranges between around 20MB and 120MB per hour. Even if we stick close to the top end of that estimate, you’re still getting around 900 hours of use before 100GB of data will run out. That’s more hours than there even are in a month.

Instant messaging

For messaging it depends on the app, but on WhatsApp you could send around 32,000 messages with just 1GB of data, so with 100GB you can send 3,200,000. So this is another activity where you really don’t need much data at all.

Music streaming

Music streaming uses slightly more data, but still not all that much, averaging roughly between 10MB and 150MB per hour, depending on the quality you’re streaming in and the app you’re using. One advantage of a high data limit like 100GB then is that you don’t need to limit the quality, so if we use that 150MB figure then you can stream around 680 hours of music per month. You’d have to literally listen to music almost 24 hours a day then to exceed that limit.

Video streaming

With video streaming we’re finally getting into a heavier data use scenario. As with many things, this varies by app, but let’s use Netflix as an example.

On the highest quality setting that can use 1GB of data or more every 20 minutes – so at least 3GB per hour. That means that you could watch at most around 33 hours of content with 100GB of data. So that’s only actually just over 1 hour each day.

However, if you lower the quality then you can watch a lot more. The lowest setting allows for roughly 6 hours of streaming with 1GB of data use, meaning you could watch around 600 hours of content. So for low quality streaming you don’t remotely need 100GB, but if you don’t want to compromise on quality then this could be the data allowance for you – if you stream a lot of video over mobile data.

Online gaming

Data use for online gaming can vary wildly depending on the game, so this one is tougher to assess than the others, but you’re unlikely to use more than 300MB per hour with mobile games, which means you could play online for up to around 333 hours – but likely a lot more, since many games will use less data than that.

So you don’t really need as much as 100GB for online gaming unless you’ve found something very data hungry to play.

Video calling

For video calling, FaceTime will use around 240MB of data per hour, while WhatsApp will use roughly 300MB. Other services will vary but will generally be in that sort of range. So using those two examples, with 100GB of data you could video call for between around 333 and 400 hours.

Working out how much data you need

We’ve given examples of key data uses above, so with that knowledge you might be able to start to work out how much data you actually need. Two things to bear in mind are that obviously you’ll probably be doing some combination of the things above, so you’ll need to consider multiple figures, and that you’ll likely spend a lot of time on Wi-Fi and therefore not actually using your mobile data.

Fortunately, it’s possible to see exactly how much data you use. If you have an iPhone then head to Settings > Mobile Data or Settings > Cellular to view your data use, while on Android the process varies more between handsets, but will be something along the lines of Settings > Connections > Data usage or Settings > More network settings > Data usage.

From there you should be able to see mobile data use over the last month, and on most phones, you’ll be able to set your billing cycle, so you know how much data you have left. You can also often set a warning for when you’ve used a certain amount. Many mobile networks also have apps that show your data usage.

So with that information you can see how much you use and therefore have a good idea of how much you need.

For most people, the answer will be less than 100GB, but if you’re doing a lot of video streaming in particular then 100GB might be beneficial – and some users could even benefit from unlimited data.

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

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