Data by the KB thanks

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Have you ever noticed how your mobile phone provider charges your mobile internet usage? Probably not. You are probably just glad they have given you a size able allowance so that you can actually use the internet on your phone with some comfort.

It is however more important than you think. You see, being charged by the MB which is what most mobile phone providers do is significantly different to be being charged the KB.

For someone who regularly blogs about mobile phone plans and how to save money using them, this is something that has been annoying me for some time now. Prepaid mobile plans in Australia have come a long way over the past two years. Prepaid data allowances have grown and keep growing. We now have plans that offer multiple GBs of data.


Lets get a few metrics out of the way before this gets too confusing. 1000 kilobytes (KB) or close enough makes up a whole Megabyte (MB). Then 1000 or so MB makes up a whole (Gigabyte) GB. By having your internet sessions billed using the lowest or smallest metric you should in theory enjoy it for longer. This obviously depends on how much you are provided with by your plan. Having used a smart phone for over a year now, my opinion is that 500MB is the minimum you need to enjoy the net on your phone and not worry about excess charges or your data running out.

Most plans out there be they prepaid, sim only or postpaid (contract) are calculating your data charged by the MB. Few are charging by the KB. What is the difference and why?

Lets take Twitter or Facebook as an example. You will most likely have an application on your phone to access these services. If you check your Facebook account say 10 times a day then you have used a minimum of 10MB per day. Lets ad to this your checking of email via Gmail. If you have your phone checking and updating for new emails every hour, then you have used a further 24MB. Finally lets say you look at a few articles during the train trip home or a few websites of interest that you can't look at work and use a further 5MB. In a day you will have used up a total of 39MB. Over a month this equates to approx 1.2GB. For most people this is well beyond their data allowance.

If we now take the same example and look at it with KB being the billing metric for internet access the result is quite different. Lets assume that each Facebook or Twitter session actually accounts for 200KB. Checking your account 10 times a day will download a total of 2MB. Then your checking of email each hour of the day downloads a further 200KB each time (about 10 basic text emails) and results in 4.8MB. Finally the articles or websites would at most use another 200KB each, a total of 1MB. Therefore in a day you will have downloaded a total of 8MB and over a whole month approx 250MB. Compared to 1.2GB, the difference is significant and worth noting.

The saviour in all of this is that several mobile phone providers are starting to offer unlimited access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This can make a real difference. However with our appetite for mobile internet use growing, you might want to look at providers such as Virgin Mobile and even Live Connected who measure your data usage by the KB.

It might not the primary reason why you would change mobile plan providers but if you are looking to spend more time on the net via your phone it could be an important consideration.

Virgin Mobile

Mobile Data Question

How is your mobile internet data allowance billed?

  • KB
  • MB
  • No idea
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