Mobile Broadband FAQ #1: Is 5GB Really Enough?

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Monday, 20 September 2010

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The mobile broadband experts at 3Gstore/EVDOinfo answer countless questions from our customers and from the EVDO Forums community every day - from general mobile broadband questions ("what the heck does 3G mean?") to specific questions about products to more advanced inquiries about what one can do with their mobile broadband service. The "mobile broadband FAQ" series addresses these questions in depth one FAQ at a time. To view ALL of the FAQs we've addressed in this series, visit

Is 5GB Really Enough Data?

In the early days of 3G mobile broadband, most of the carriers offered "unlimited" service. Once mobile broadband use began to increase dramatically, all of the major carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, Alltel) moved away from unlimited service plans and implemented a 5GB monthly allowance - the service isn't turned off after one uses 5GB in a month, but the carrier charges per-megabyte overage fees for use in excess of 5GB. Obviously, no one wants to rack up overage fees (and they can add up fast!), nor do they want to pay a lot of money for a monthly service that doesn't even provide enough bandwidth for their needs, so one of the most common questions we hear from folks who are new to mobile broadband is: "Is 5G going to be enough data for me?"

The answer to this question depends on what you plan to do with your mobile broadband service. MOST of our customers have no problem with the 5GB limit - in fact, Sprint has even reported that the average usage of all their 3G subscribers is under 1.5GB/month. Folks who use their mobile broadband service as a backup to a primary internet connection, or for occasional travel use, typically have the LEAST trouble with the 5GB limit (since they aren't using the service all the time). That is not to say that mobile broadband can't be used as your everyday internet connection - many users do use mobile broadband as their only internet connection without ever coming near their 5GB limit. If you plan to use mobile broadband primarily for emailing, surfing the web, and watching the occasional YouTube video, it is very unlikely that you will have a problem with the 5GB allowance.

So what type of users DO have a problem with the 5GB allowance? VIDEO is the largest bandwidth-eater - whether you're downloading TV shows or movies (think iTunes) or streaming (like Hulu or Netflix Instant). For comparison, you could visit 33,333 times in a month before hitting 5GB, but watching just 7.5 hours of standard-definition Netflix streaming would cause you to hit 5GB! Other activities that consume a relatively large chunk of bandwidth (although not nearly as much as video) include audio streaming, online gaming, and video chat. 

To help mobile broadband users (and potential users who aren't sure if it's right for them) determine if 5GB is "enough" data, we put together a handy "What Does 5GB Get Me?" chart that lists how much bandwidth is consumed by many popular internet activities, along with a calculation of how many times you could do each activity before hitting your 5GB limit. As we stated earlier, 5GB is more than enough data for MOST users, but we always recommend taking time to consider what you plan to use your mobile broadband service for before confirming that 5GB will be enough for you (and folks who plan to do a lot of video downloading/uploading or streaming are advised to be particularly careful). Most carriers (including Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T) allow you to easily monitor your usage online, so there shouldn't be any surprise charges at the end of the month!

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 September 2010 )
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