What is mobile data and how much do I need?

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Data is one of the most important things to a phone plan, allowing you to access the internet with your phone. Data on your phone is measured in gigabytes, and resets on recharges for prepaid plans and monthly for postpaid plans. Typically, phone plan prices are determined by data inclusions, which is great if you don’t use the internet on your phone often, but expensive if you do. In this article, we’ll be explaining what mobile data is and how much you might need.

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What is mobile data?

Mobile data is how you access the internet from your phone. Mobile data allows you to use the internet through 3G, 4G or 5G on the go, allowing you to access services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Netflix from the comfort of your phone when away from a WiFi connection. Typically, your data will be capped (though unlimited data plans exist), and usually, phone plans are set at different prices determined by data inclusions.

While mobile data is great for general use on the move, it’s very rarely a decent NBN replacement. 4G speeds are naturally slower than NBN speeds, and despite home wireless broadband and mobile broadband existing, they’re not always as fast and efficient as NBN connections. If you’re after faster internet at home, you might want to check out some NBN plans.

How does mobile data work?

Mobile data lets access the internet without needing a WiFi connection. It’s usually metered in gigabytes, and is renewed on a recurring basis (postpaid) or by manual or automatic recharges (prepaid). As long as you have a 5G, 4G, or 3G connection (still a thing!), you’ll be able to get on the internet with your mobile data.

If you go over your data cap, three things can happen. You’ll need to purchase more data (postpaid) or purchase a recharge (prepaid), or if you’re on an unlimited data plan, your speeds will be restricted to 1.5Mbps (only available through Telstra and Vodafone). Postpaid customers may also be charged for excess data use, usually at a rate of $10 per extra gigabyte.

Postpaid plans with lots of data

If data is a big deal for you, there’s plenty of plans out there that should be perfect for you. Plans with more data will naturally cost more money, however there’s some great bargains out there to be had. See the table below for big data postpaid plans.

The following table shows a selection of postpaid SIM-only plans with over 40GB data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of postpaid SIM-only plans with over 40GB data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

How much data do I need?

Not everybody needs lots of data! If you’re spending most of your time at home, there’s little need for having a plan with lots of data. If you’re only using your phone for calls and texts, data shouldn’t be a big concern: however if you’re somewhat of a power user who uses mobile data for Facebook, Twitter or YouTube daily, then it’s worth getting a big data plan.

If you don’t go online with your phone often, you should be fine with a 1GB plan or even a PAYG plan. But if you do lots of video streaming or social media use, consider getting a plan between 10GB and 30GB a month. If you’re not sure how much data you might use in a month, consider installing your provider’s self-service app and monitoring how much data is used in a month.

Should I turn mobile data off?

If you’re concerned about burning through your plan’s without realising, turning your mobile data off can be an easy solution. You won’t be able to use it when you’re on the move, but it means any background processes won’t be able to use data behind your back (e.g. location services).

If you’re within range of a known and trusted WiFi network, it’s worth connecting to that – not just because you’ll preserve your mobile data, but because you’ll find a WiFi network is probably faster anyway.

Having big data isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly useful to have!

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