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How Much Data Do I Need at Home? A Guide to Getting As Much Internet As You Need (Without Overpaying)

Find out how much Internet data your home requires with this SmartMove guide that helps you consider your household’s various needs.

An Internet connection allows us to access the web, play games, stream movies and music, connect to our loved ones, keep up with work and school, and much more—all from the comfort of our homes. However, Internet connectivity and data usage is not an infinite resource. A good home WiFi plan should suit the entire household, ensuring everyone gets what they need without paying more than necessary.

It’s essential to determine what you need in a home WiFi connection and data plan, especially if you’re moving to a new home and switching to a new Internet service provider (ISP). To guide you, SmartMove broke down the details on Internet data. Keep scrolling to discover what Internet data is, how it works, and how much you need to make sure everyone at home can keep up with their favorite online activities.

What is Data?

Every time you connect a device to your WiFi network, data is sent back and forth across that connection. Internet data travels via either copper or fiber cables installed throughout your area. Homes and businesses are connected to these cables and the Internet signal traveling across them via on-site modems. Routers then broadcast that signal as WiFi.

How Does Internet Data Get Measured?

Internet data, including WiFi data, tends to be used in large amounts, which helps explain how data gets measured and discussed. One byte of data contains 8 bits, and there are 1,024 bytes in 1 kilobyte; 1,024 kilobytes in 1 megabyte; and 1,024 megabytes in 1 gigabyte. When looking at data amounts for home Internet usage, you’ll usually be working in the megabyte and gigabyte range. That being said, Internet data limits (as well as advertised upload and download speeds) are most often measured in terms of bits, not bytes — one megabyte is equivalent to 8 megabits, as each byte contains 8 bits.

At a basic level, every activity you perform that makes use of your Internet connection can be broken down into uploading and downloading. When you type a query into a search engine, the data is uploaded to the Internet. When the answer to your query comes back, it’s downloaded to you. So you may not always be literally uploading or downloading a file, but this back and forth — the Internet data uploading and downloading information – is what allows you to surf the web, stream music, video chat with friends or coworkers, and much more. How much data your plan allows (as well as the speed of your Internet connection) will determine most of your experience using your home Internet.

Device Usage and Data Usage

As explained, your connected, electronic devices use Internet data when they connect to your WiFi router. However, different device types can use different amounts of data for the same activity.

For example, streaming video on a computer or desktop tends to use more data than streaming the same video on a mobile device. Why? Well, the desktop computer is running a different, more data-intensive version of the website. The tradeoff is that this also usually means that video quality (and high-speed connection in general) will usually be better on a computer than on a phone or tablet.

How Much Data Do I Need at Home?

When it comes to figuring out how much data you need for your home Internet connection, it heavily depends on the types of things you generally use your connection for. Does someone in your house regularly game online with an Xbox, Playstation, or other console? Does someone regularly stream with Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or another streaming service? Does someone routinely watch regional sports feeds via your cable TV streaming app? Does someone work from home and need a connection that can support video conferencing?

Let’s take a look at a few of the common uses for Internet connections at home and explore what their data needs might be. You may be surprised at how much or how little data your typical Internet activities require. Knowing will ensure you have the right plan at the right price.

Working From Home

Some of the most common activities for at-home employees include phone calls, video conferences, Internet surfing, and checking email. All of these activities fall either below the megabit (1 MB) range or under 10 megabits (10 MB) per minute, which is considered very low data usage.

If these activities describe the bulk of the Internet use in your household, you don’t need to pay for an Internet plan with high data usage.

Keep in mind, however, that if an at-home worker is also streaming music in the background, or if someone else is simultaneously in the middle of a Netflix binge, more data will be used.

Online Gaming

The type of game played online affects the amount of data the game needs per minute to operate. However, gaming online, in general, is a data-heavy activity.

The exact amount of data a game uses will depend on many factors. These include visual graphics, gameplay speed, and whether you’re streaming gameplay to a third-party platform such as Twitch. In general though, gamers use anywhere from 40 MB to 100 MB of data an hour. This is about as much as it takes to stream music.

While a plan that includes enough data for gaming will be more expensive, if gaming is important in your household, then an accommodating plan should be a priority.

Streaming HD Video

Streaming HD video content generally uses between 4-8 MB per second, which translates to as much as 1-3 GB of data an hour. Streaming HD video, then, can add up over time and create a significant drain on your data limit.

And it doesn’t matter what services you use. Streaming on-demand; using a service like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu+Live, DirecTV Stream, or Peacock; simultaneous streaming on multiple devices; or even watching live TV channels online like Bravo, PBS, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, or NFL Network and ESPN2 can all burn through data quickly.

If you do a lot of HD streaming, check with your Internet service provider about data caps to ensure you aren’t in danger of racking up a massive bill.

Using a Smart Home Device

The best smart home devices are generally designed to always be listening for voice commands, which is a feature that tends to use a lot of Internet data. Therefore, if you rely on your smart home device to connect to other smart devices throughout your home, like a smart TV, it’s important to consider the data usage of these devices in the Internet plan you choose. Be sure to choose a smart home Internet plan.

SmartMove can Help You Get the Data You Need for Your Home Internet

Finding the right Internet plan for your needs can be tricky. SmartMove is here to help you get connected to the best provider in your area for your Internet needs, as well as cable TV, mobile, and more.

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