What is mobile data?

Thanks to our obsession with our iPhones, Android devices, iPads and remote working, the demand for mobile data is exploding.

But what is mobile data, and how much will you need? We’ll outline exactly what you can do with your data, how you can keep it under control and how much data you’ll be likely to consume.

Let's start with the jargon KB, MB and GB?

data usageThere are 1,024 kilobytes (KB) in 1 megabyte (MB) and 1,024 megabytes in 1 gigabyte (GB).

OK, so now we know the units but how much data do we really need? Fortunately it doesn't matter if you are connecting via your smartphone or laptop data usage is the same. However the usage requirements can differ widely and consequently this has a knock-on effect on the amount of data you may require.

Smartphone Users

Besides making phone calls and sending text messages, most activities on a modern smartphone will consume data. These activities include; browsing the web, reading and sending e-mails, checking Facebook and Twitter, sharing photos, downloading applications, downloading music, listening to online radio and watching videos on YouTube.

Laptop & Tablet Users

Unsurprisingly the average monthly 3G traffic is the highest for laptops (1-7 GB), followed by tablets (250-800 MB) and smartphones (80-600 MB). With Online video (30–40 percent) being the largest contributor to mobile traffic volume, followed by Web browsing (20–30 percent).

So what do you get for your MB's?


How much data do you need whilst abroad?

This question is really answered by; how important is the data to you? If the majority of your access is for leisure, we'd recommend that you wait until you have a secure WiFi connection rather than wasting your precious mobile MB's. However, ensure you are using a genuine and secure connection as free Wifi can often lead to problems, as detailed in our blog section.

Generally we've found that people want mobile data access for one of 3 reasons:

  1. Need to check emails (10-20 per day) - Nothing more nothing less. Will not be accessing or sending large files in excess of 1MB. In this instance you can certainly get by with 50-200 MB per month.
    An ideal solution for low or occasional usage would be the pre-paid international data SIM

  2. Want to use my smartphone as per normal - If this is the case you need to budget between 200-500 MB per month and avoid watching too many videos!
    For best results if you are a medium/high user then the solution to review is the pay-as-you-go international data SIM

  3. Essential work related - To make sure everything operates as in the UK, we would recommend that you use an unlimited or heavy usage data package in excess of 1 GB. However if you will be accessing video content, gaming or downloading excessively then you will need an unlimited package. An example of a heavy user solution for France with up to 10GB available would be the Orange France data SIM

Alternatively, use the destinations tab at the top of this page to review other options for specific country or multi-country data usage.

Some bedtime reading...

  • Mobile video is forecast to represent 66 percent of all mobile data traffic by 2015, increasing 35-fold from 2010 to 2015, the highest growth rate of any mobile data application tracked in the Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.
  • Mobile traffic originating from tablet devices is expected to grow 205-fold from 2010 to 2015, the highest growth rate of any device category tracked.
  • Global mobile data traffic increased 159 percent from calendar year 2009 to calendar year 2010 to 237 petabytes per month, or the equivalent of 60 million DVDs.
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 4.2 times as fast as global fixed broadband data traffic in 2010.
  • Global mobile data traffic in 2010 was three times the size of all global Internet traffic (fixed and mobile) in the year 2000.
  • Smart phones, laptops, and other portable devices will drive more than 87 percent of global mobile traffic by 2015.