WHAT IS A MB?

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What is a MB?

Whether you have a monthly contract or on a “Pay As You Go” data plan, usage is most likely measured and charged by the megabyte or MB. So… what is a megabyte (MB)? or kilobyte (kB)? or gigabyte (GB)?

From bytes to Gigabytes
Once piece of digital information 1 byte
1024 bytes 1 kilobyte (kB)
1024 kB 1 megabyte (MB)
1024 MB 1 gigabyte (GB)

A byte is one piece of digital information. A megabyte (MB) is about 1,000,000 (one million) pieces of digital data. This still isn't much help unless you know what this means in terms of an amount of text, a number of images or minutes of video. So let’s try and put it in a way that relates to how we typically consume data.

How much data do I need?

It depends! - on many factors, the most significant of which is your own data usage habits. This is why you need to a tool like datasquasher to track and control your data consumption. Once you start streaming audio and videos the figures will soon add up.

Many people will be reluctant to stream videos using their 3G connections, mainly due to poor reception or coverage in their area, or simply because they are unsure of how much data they will use (Bill Shock Avoidance). With the introduction of 4G data usage this will only increase.

Below are some guidelines and examples to help you measure your data usage:

  • One Text email (about 2000 English characters): 22kB
  • One email with one photo attachment: 1.5MB
  • One web page (in mobile version): 180KB
  • Music streaming (average quality, 160Kbps): 1.2MB per minute, 72MB per hour
  • Music streaming/downloading (320Kbps): 2.4MB per minute, 144MB per hour
  • BBC iPlayer video: 50MB to 350MB per hour
  • BBC iPlayer Radio: up to 60MB per hour
  • YouTube Video, HD: 300MB per hour
  • Netflix video, SD: up to 1GB per hour (1024MB)
  • Netflix video, HD: up to 2.3GB per hour (2,400MB)

[Sources: BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Three]

Please note: these are just guidelines and your data usage will vary depending on the type of device you use. Connection speed will also play a factor in terms of the above figures.

Data Usage Examples

“Charlie bit my finger” YouTube video

0 minutes, 56 seconds

High Quality
Size 4.4MB
Watches per month 112*
Watchers per day 4*
Standard Definition
Size 3.4MB
Watches per month 145*
Watchers per day 5*

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)


Emailing a video clip

0 minutes, 42 seconds

Standard Definition
Size 5.6MB
Watches per month 89*
Watches per day 3*

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)

Emailing a video clip

Websites

The data consumed when looking at a website on your mobile varies hugely depending on the mix of text, images and video and whether the site has been optimized for use on a mobile device. Here are some examples:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html 21 July 2014, 12:00 hours

Size 27.4MB
Views per month X
Views per day X

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)

http://www.wired.co.uk/ 21 July 2014, 12:00 hours

Size 10.9MB
Views per month X
Views per day X

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news 21 July 2014, 12:00 hours

Size 27.4MB
Views per month X
Views per day X

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)


Images

Image quality and size have a significant impact on data usage. Nearly every website, whether it's a desktop or mobile-optimised site, will have numerous images that can consume a sizeable amount of your data allowance.

Image (file size) Original (3.0MB) Large (0.78MB) Medium (0.13MB) Small (0.004MB)
Data used to send image + 4.1MB 1.1MB 0.18MB 0.06MB
Emails per month* 122 455 2788 8333
Emails per day* 4 15 91 274

* based on a 500MB data plan over a 30 day month (16MB per day)

Sending images via email and instant messaging apps also use up your mobile data. The image quality you choose when sending an image (Original, Large, Medium or Small) makes a big difference to the data you use.

Added to this, sending images (or video) uses more data than the photo file size as the photo needs to be converted to travel by email ( + see below for a bit of “techy speak”).

+ Why more data is used to send an image or video

Sending email is text based, using SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol); this was around before the Internet as we know it, so they had to find a way of being able to send binary data (for images, videos & other attachments) too.

To do this, binary files are encoded into a text-based format. Because each text character can only hold a small amount of data, more are needed to represent the same file. Most files are encoded using MIME:

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIME if you want to know more.