I get a lot of questions about how much bandwidth usage is typical in one month. If you use an aircard, or tethered cell phone for your broadband Internet access, the contract with your cellular provider probably limits you to 5 Gigabytes of usage. So, how much is that?

First, you need to know that 1 Gigabyte (GB) = roughly 1,000 Mebabytes (MB) (1,024 to be exact)

Here are some numbers just to give you an idea of typical usage. Keep in mind that there is really no such thing as ‘typical’ however. It’s kind of like asking, “How many miles does the typical RVer travel in a month?” You know that can range from 100 miles to 5,000 miles or more!

Sample numbers:

  • Surfing the internet and looking at web pages with pictures = approx 30 MB / hr
  • Surfing the internet and watching videos = 150 MB/hr
  • Emailing photos = negligible if you use something like Picasa to resize them first
  • Download of Windows updates = usually <10 MB, but can be over 100 – when you’re least expecting it!
  • Download a full length movie = 2 Gigabytes

With these ‘typical’ numbers, 5 Gigabytes/month is normally plenty even for a heavy Internet user. Where it can get problematic is if you use a router to enable two or more people to use the same connection. If two people are using the connection regularly, you need to keep a watch on your usage. Whatever software is managing your connection, should tell you about your usage. If you are using Verizon, you are probably using the software called VZAccess and you can click on the button that reads, “Usage” to see a screen like:


Your screen may look different depending on the software and the version you have (see comment below.) You need to keep an eye on this, just like you need to watch your minutes with regard to your phone bill. I got a call from a good friend yesterday who told me that she had an extra $180 charge on her Verizon bill because she had gone over her 5 GB limit with the aircard. She used 5,700,000 megabytes – which is 700 MB over the limit, charged at .25/MG. She watches her minutes religiously, but she never thought to watch the data usage statistics. She’s had the aircard for over a year and has never come close to the 5 GB, so what’s difference this month? Well, in addition to sharing the connection with her husband, they’ve been snowed in most of this month! Not much else to do other than browse the web!

Why she’s living in snow country when she has wheels under her house, I’ll never know! I told her to call Verizon customer service, beg their forgiveness and bat her eyelashes – tell them how cold it is … maybe they’ll take pity and let her off the hook this one time. Believe it or not, they did!

Chris Guld
Computer Education for Travelers

Leave a Reply