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How Much Internet Data Do You Need?

Most households need about 700GB of home internet data every month to browse, stream, and game without a hitch. For your cell phone plan, on the other hand, you need at least 10GB of monthly data.

If you exceed your data cap, you could be charged for overages. Alternatively, your provider could slow down your speeds as part of its “fair use” policy. That could lead to buffering, slow uploads and downloads, and even lost connection on some devices.

We’ll give you a rundown of the data limits you can expect from your provider and help you find out how your internet speed impacts data usage. Then, we’ll give you tips on budgeting your data and recommend the best unlimited plans.

Pro tip:

Take a look at the best unlimited-data internet plans for the inside scoop on speeds, pricing, and availability.

How much data does an average internet user consume per month?

The average internet user consumes 641GB per month on their home internet plan, according to a recent report from OpenVault. By the end of 2024, the report estimated the average household would use at least 700GB every month. “Power users,” who use more than 1TB per month, make up more than 20% of households. “Extreme power users,” who use more than 2TB per month, make up about 5% of households.

Household data usage has been climbing steadily for years.The rise of smart home devices and ubiquity of online streaming fuels a higher demand for data. Internet users with faster speeds at home also use more data on average.

What’s the difference between internet speed and internet data?

You can think of internet speeds like a pipe and data like gallons of water. The speed is the width of the pipe, while data is the total number of gallons that pass through the pipe during a given period of time.

In geek speak, data is measured in GB and TB (gigabits and terabits) while speed is measured in Mbps and Gbps (megabits per second and gigabits per second).

Faster speeds use more data

If you have a fast internet plan, that means you have a big pipe that can pass several gallons (MB or GB of data ) at a time. So it makes sense that the faster your speed, the more data you’re likely to use.

Use our “How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?” tool to see whether you can reduce data usage—and save money—with a slower internet plan.


How much internet data you need

Internet activityMinimum recommended data per month
Streaming video in HD300GB
Making video calls on Zoom60GB
Running home security cameras30GB–300GB (depending on video resolution and frequency of activity captured by the cameras)
Online gaming30GB
Web browsing and checking email40GB
Streaming music or podcasts13GB

To figure out how much data you need, the first step is to find out how much data you get on your monthly plan by looking at your bill or your provider’s mobile app.

If you have fiber or DSL internet, there’s a good chance you won’t have a data cap to worry about at all. If you have cable internet, you can expect a cap of 1,200GB to 1,300GB (1.2TB–1.3TB). However, some cable providers (Mediacom) have caps as low as 350GB on some plans and others (Spectrum) offer unlimited data. Xfinity, the nation’s largest cable internet provider, has caps of 1.2GB on most plans. Cox, another major provider, is slightly more generous with a cap of 1.28TB.

Once you know how much data you get, find out how much data you already use.

Home internet data monitoring

The easiest way to monitor your home internet data usage every month is to log in to your router’s mobile app. If you rent Wi-Fi gear from your provider, this will be your provider’s app. If you use your own router, you’ll probably have an app from the manufacturer. Look for “Activity” or “data usage” to find the relevant data. If you can’t find what you need there, your data usage may be listed on your monthly bill.

Monitoring cell phone data is easy on most devices, too. On iPhones, go to Settings. From there, search the list for Cellular. Then, find the “Usage” line to see both how much cellular data you’ve used and how much your plan offers. On Android phones, go to Settings, then look for either “Connections” Or “Network & Internet.” Look for Carrier, and then tap “Settings” to see data usage.

How to budget your internet data

Once you’ve figured out your data cap and compared it to your data use, you can get started on a data budget. Don’t worry too much about the impact of emails, music streaming, or general browsing (none of which use up very much data). Pay more attention to the number and size of files you download, the amount of time you spend streaming video, and the video resolution on your streaming platforms and Zoom calls.

Get unlimited data to avoid going over your data limit

Before we go further, let’s be clear about one thing. The best way to ensure you have all the data you need is to get an internet plan with unlimited data.

Unlimited data means you can use the internet all you want, without consequences (well, from your service provider at least).

Best internet plans with unlimited data

PlanPriceSpeedOrder online
Google Fiber Google Fiber 1 Gig$70.00/mo.*1,000MbpsView Plans
T-Mobile Home Internet T-Mobile 5G Home Internet Unlimited$50.00/mo.72-245MbpsView Plan
Spectrum Spectrum Internet® 300 Mbps$39.99—$49.99/mo.Up to 300Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
Astound Broadband 300 Mbps Internet$20.00/mo.§300Mbps
EarthLink Earthlink Fiber 1 Gig$89.95/mo.1,000Mbps
T-Mobile Home Internet T-Mobile 5G Home Internet Plus$70.00/mo.72-245MbpsView Plan

Do you need unlimited data? Honestly, probably not.

But unlimited data does come in handy if you spend a lot of time doing online activities that use up lots of data, like streaming video and downloading large files.

Unlimited data is also useful if you share Wi-Fi with a lot of roommates or family members. If you go back to the water analogy—the more people you have on your Wi-Fi, the more data you consume overall. So you need a larger water tank to get through each month.

Looking for an internet plan with lots of data? Search your zip code below to see what’s available in your area.

Is 1 TB of internet data enough?

For most households, 1TB of data is enough for a month of internet use. That’s the usual data cap for home internet providers, and it’s a generous amount. It will cover activities like browsing, checking email, and watching a handful of YouTube videos or Netflix movies every day.

However, it’s much easier to go through 1TB of data in 30 days if you have gigabit internet speeds, spend a lot of time doing data-heavy activities, share your Wi-Fi with a lot of other users, or all of the above.

These activities use a large amount of data:

  • Streaming video
  • Making video calls
  • Running smart-home security cameras
  • Posting video to social media
  • Downloading games and large files
  • Doing any of these tasks on multiple devices at the same time


These activities use a small amount of data:

  • Checking, sending, and receiving email
  • Using social media (without posting video)
  • Browsing the web (with no video)
  • Streaming music or podcasts
  • Shopping online

Is Xfinity’s 1.2 TB of internet data enough?

Xfinity imposes a data cap of 1.2 TB per month on all of its internet plans. That’s enough for most people, and it’s slightly better than average as far as data caps go.

However, you may need more data if you have an Xfinity plan with speeds of 1,000 Mbps or faster. On average, internet users with gigabit speeds use more than 1TB of data in a month.

Xfinity’s Unlimited Data Option gives an unlimited quantity of internet data for an extra $30 per month. Having unlimited data means you’re less likely to go over your data cap and incur extra charges. Of course, this doesn’t beat internet providers like Spectrum and Astound Broadband, which give you unlimited data at no extra cost.

Life lessons for consuming internet data

Lesson one: Stream video in standard definition to use less data

ActivityMinimum recommended data per monthHow 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

If you’re worried about your data cap, it’s best to avoid watching video in 4K resolution—it gobbles up a stunning 8 GB per hour. (And can you really tell the difference between 4K and HD, anyway?) Even HD video can take a nasty bite out of your data. Streaming in SD lets you watch a lot more video without putting as big a dent on your data diet.

On most streaming apps, you can change video resolution by settings by logging into your profile on a PC or laptop browser.

Lesson two: Every file you download counts towards your data cap

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

The size of a file you download roughly corresponds to the amount of data you use to download it. You can see how much data a download eats up by looking at how big the file is—the larger the file, the more data.

Lesson three: Watch out for video calls and smart-home cameras

ActivityHow much data it usesHow much time it takes to use 1 GB
Making a video call in SD340MB per hour3 hours
Making a video call in HD2GB per hour30 minutes
Running a smart home security camera2GB per hour30 minutes

High-resolution video calls on apps like Zoom have the potential to make a big dent in your monthly data. You probably don’t need to worry if you make a couple calls a day, but consider switching off the HD setting on your Zoom account if you work from home and regularly sit in on multiple daily meetings.

The same goes for smart home security cameras, which can use up to 2GB per hour depending on the resolution and other settings.

Lesson four: Don’t sweat the small stuff

ActivityHow much data it usesHow much time it takes to use 1 GB
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

You don’t use much data sending emails, reading the news, scrolling social media, shopping online, or streaming music and podcasts. Even online gaming has a relatively modest impact on your data cap. If this constitutes the bulk of what you do online, then a 1TB data cap is plenty.

If you’re looking for fast internet with a lot of data, run your zip code below to see what’s available in your area.

With rural internet, you get a lot less data than usual

Many rural parts of the United States have limited internet options. Sometimes, the only service you can get is satellite or fixed wireless internet. Even if your provider says there are no data caps, your speeds could slow down dramatically if you exceed certain limits.

Does satellite internet have low data caps?

Each of the big three satellite internet providers now advertise unlimited data, but there’s more to the story. With Hughesnet, you get up to 200GB of priority data (depending on your plan) and then get deprioritized to standard data for the rest of the month. That can mean speeds that are really slow.

Viasat and Starlink offer unlimited data, but the real-world differences in speed are enormous. With Viasat, our proprietary speed test shows average results of 14.93Mbps. That’s barely fast enough to stream one video in SD without buffering. With Starlink, on the other hand, our speed test shows average results of 48.49Mbps. That’s fast enough for multiple connected devices, even if you don’t spring for a priority plan.

Why does fixed wireless internet have low data caps?

Fixed wireless sometimes has low data caps because it depends on a cellular network, which may not always have wide coverage in a remote area.

Rise Broadband offers a 50 Mbps Internet plan with a 250 GB monthly cap, for instance. Home internet plans from T-Mobile and AT&T offer unlimited data but it’s always deprioritized compared to mobile phone traffic.

Data caps on fixed wireless internet

Internet providerData capConnection typeOrder online
Rise Broadband 250GB/mo. (unlimited options available in some areas)Fixed wireless
AT&T UnlimitedFixed wirelessView Plan
T-Mobile Home Internet UnlimitedFixed wireless

Rise Broadband charges you if you go over your data limit every month, but you can spring for its unlimited data plan upfront for an extra $25 each month. We recommend going that route rather than risking even more excessive overage charges.

How much cell phone data do you need?

You need 10GB of data per month for your cell phone to use social media, make VoIP calls, stream videos, and do other internet activities regularly without worrying about using up your data or getting slowed speeds.

You need at least 10GB is a solid amount of cellular data to cover your internet needs when you aren’t able to log onto a Wi-Fi network on your phone. But you should definitely get more data if you use your phone daily to do data-heavy tasks like making Zoom calls, streaming video on Netflix, or hosting a livestream.

Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all have phone plans that give you 50GB or even unlimited premium data every month. You have to pay significantly more for those plans, of course, but it may be worth the price if you regularly burn through your phone data.

Although many cell phone plans tout “unlimited” data, in reality most of those plans have caps on high-speed data. The cap could be anywhere from 5GB to 100GB, depending on the plan, and when you go over, your speeds revert to crushingly slow, sub–1 Mbps speeds.

How much mobile data do you get from a hotspot?

You can get anywhere from 2GB to 100GB per month with your phone’s hotspot or a mobile hotspot.

Hotspots are a great tool if you spend a lot of time working outside your home or office. You can also use one if you’re house-sitting, traveling, or taking a short break at a vacation home. But they require data plans to work, and those plans usually come with strict limits. The data comes from a cellular network, which doesn’t have the same throughput capacity as a residential fiber, cable, or DSL internet network.

Even when you can get unlimited data on a hotspot, watch out for caveats. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T technically give you unlimited hotspot data, but your plan comes with a set amount of premium, high-speed data for the month.

After that’s all used up, you get unlimited data at slow-creeping speeds that aren’t good for much. The phone plan from Visible, meanwhile, promises unlimited hotspot data, but only at 5 Mbps with just one Wi-Fi device connected at a time.

Pro tip:

Get more details on these hotspot data offerings in our guide to the best hotspot data plans.

FAQ about how much data you need

How much data do I need per month?

How much data do I use per month?

What is a data cap?


Author -

Chili Palmer covers breaking news, satellite internet, mobile connectivity, and streaming services for Previously writing under the name Rebecca Palmer, Chili is passionate about providing accurate and accessible information any time you're trying to connect … whether you already speak geek or just got your first smartphone.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

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