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Watching Your Wi-Fi Diet? Here’s How Much Data a Hotspot Uses

Mobile hotspots are the energy bars of internet service, giving you quick and easy Wi-Fi while on the go. They can consume as little as 60MB or as much as 1.3GB of that mobile data in an hour if you’re using one to casually browse, play online games, or stream video. But there’s no real limit to how much data a mobile or cell phone hotspot uses—it all depends on what you use it for and how many devices are connected.

Most hotspot data plans come with far less data than what you get on a home internet plan, so it’s important to keep track of your personal hotspot’s mobile data usage. Use up the data too quickly and you could end up losing your connection in the middle of an important Zoom meeting.

Here’s a quick guide to how much data personal hotspots use and how much you should get depending on your hotspot usage.

How much hotspot data do you need?

You need at least 2GB of data per month for a mobile hotspot or cell phone hotspot. That’s enough to cover a day or two of intermittent video streaming, online gaming, and web browsing.

You likely need more than that if you plan to use a hotspot regularly throughout the month—and you definitely need more data if you plan to use your personal hotspot for multiple users and devices. But most people only use hotspots occasionally, so don’t feel like you need to get a whole bunch of hotspot data upfront if it’s not necessary.

Internet activityMinimum recommended data per hour
Streaming video in SD500MB
Making video calls on Zoom (SD resolution)340MB
Online gaming200MB
Web browsing and checking email200MB
Streaming music or podcasts60MB

How much hotspot data can you get?

You can get up to 100GB of mobile data a month on a hotspot. That’s plenty of data to cover a month’s worth of intermittent browsing and streaming, but it’s still a lot less compared to what you may be used to on a home internet plan. Also, the more hotspot data you get, the higher price you have to pay.

PlanBest forPriceData allowanceOrder online
T-Mobile 2GBBest overall$10.00/mo.*2GB/mo. (can order more GB w/ data pass)View Plan
Verizon ProBest for 5G$60.00/mo. (w/ existing Unlimited phone plan), $90.00/mo. (w/out phone plan)100GB of 4G LTE/5G, then reduced to 600Kbps
T-Mobile Magenta MaxBest for cell phone hotspots$85.00/mo.40GB/mo. (followed by unlimited 3G speeds)View Plan
AT&T PREPAID 50 GBBest for AT&T$55/mo. (w/ autopay)50GB/mo.View Plan
Visible phone planBest prepaid plan$25.00/mo. (plus price of hotspot)Unlimited (max 5Mbps speeds, connects only one device at a time)View Plan
Verizon TravelPassBest for international travel$5.00–$10.00/day0.5GB per day

The best mobile hotspot plans come from T-Mobile. The mobile carrier—which also offers an excellent 5G home internet plan—doesn’t offer very much mobile data on its hotspot plan. But that’s actually a good thing because you pay a lower price upfront and then have the option to buy more data whenever you need. That way, you don’t have to commit to a pricey data plan, even if you only need to use a mobile hotspot once in a while.

How much hotspot data do you use? A task-by-task breakdown

To give you a better idea of how much data a mobile hotspot uses, we broke things down according to specific tasks.

Before we jump into the deets, here are a few important things to keep in mind when you’re using a personal hotspot.

  • You use more data when you connect more devices.
  • Streaming video uses up a lot of data.
  • Downloading files can add up to big data usage.

Browsing and streaming music only uses a tiny amount of data

You don’t use very much mobile hotspot data when you send emails, read the news, scroll social media, shop online, or stream music and podcasts. Even online gaming has a relatively modest impact on your hotspot data.

If this constitutes the bulk of what you do on a hotspot, then you don’t need to worry about investing in a pricey hotspot data plan. You also don’t need to count your gigabytes as closely for fear of exceeding your data limit.

ActivityHow much data it usesHow much time it takes to use 1GB
Online gaming200MB per hour5 hours
Web browsing180MB per hour5-6 hours
Scrolling/posting on social media90MB per hour10-11 hours
Streaming audio60MB per hour18-19 hours
Sending/receiving emails40MB per 100 emails2,500 emails

Streaming video takes up the most hotspot data

Try your best to avoid streaming video in HD when you’re on a Wi-Fi hotspot—you’re going to zap your data cap in a jiffy when you’re using 2GB per hour. And don’t even think about streaming a movie in 4K; save that for your home internet connection. Instead, when you sign on using a hotspot, change the video settings on YouTube and Netflix so that videos automatically stream in SD.

ActivityHow much data it usesHow much time it takes to use 1GB
Streaming video in SD500MB per hour2 hours
Streaming video in HD2GB per hour30 minutes
Streaming video in 4K8GB per hour7.5 minutes

Every file you download counts towards your data

The size of a file you download roughly equals the amount of cellular data you use to download it. You’re fine downloading a PDF from a client, but stay away from the big stuff like video files or hard-drive backups. Save those downloads for when you’re back home on your regular Wi-Fi.

DownloadHow much data it uses
A six-page PDF5.9MB
An HD movieApprox. 4GB
A video game or game updateApprox. 20-60GB

FAQ

How much data does a hotspot use?

Mobile hotspots use between 60MB and 1.3GB per hour if a user is streaming, gaming, or making regular Zoom calls on a single device. But the amount of data a hotspot uses can vary depending on what you’re using it for and how often.

Can you get unlimited data on a hotspot?

You cannot usually get unlimited data on a hotspot. While many hotspot data plans technically give you unlimited data, they usually come with strict caps on premium 4G LTE and 5G cellular data. Once you reach your limit, your hotspot speeds slow to under 1Mbps speeds, crippling your ability to do anything but check email.

Visible offers unlimited hotspot data as part of its phone plan. But speeds are limited to 5Mbps, and you can only connect one device to the hotspot at a time.

Disclaimer

Author -

Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

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