How Much Is 5 GB & Is It Enough?

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Useful

Unlocking The 3G Data Cap Mystery

When AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile & Verizon say you can use 5 GB (gigabytes) of data each month, it’s like telling someone they can have 95,236 calories for the month.


What the heck is that?

If it were daytime minutes then it’s something you’d get right away. Not something that’s super hard to figure out since it’s based on time. That’s something you deal with everyday.

On the other hand, who thinks in kb, MB, and GB?

Let’s be honest, did you check how many kb you used to load this webpage? Even if you did, who’d want that mind-numbing job all day?

You’ve got a life and time is short.

Instead, there’s got to be some way to either get an idea of:

  1. What Can You Do With 5GB?
  2. Is 5 GB Enough For You?
  3. How To Keep Track Of Data Use (like how you track your cell phone minutes).

By figuring that stuff out, you’ll be able to enjoy the freedom of mobile broadband, work from anywhere and anytime. No more piggybacking on unreliable free WiFi, imposing on friends everytime you visit, or being stuck with abysmally slow dial up.

On the other hand, if you don’t know how much 5GB is and how to keep track, then you run the risk of paying practically a second mortgage on your house in addition to the normal $60 a month AT&T, Sprint & Verizon like to charge.

So let’s get to demystifying all the techno-jargon.

So What Can You Do With 5GB?

Here’s a roundup of things you might do, how much bandwidth (data) they’d eat up out of 5 GB and how many times you could do each:

Stuff You Might Do How Much It Uses How Many Times Could You Do It With 300 MB How Many Times You Could Do It With 5GB
Email (no attachment) 3 KB 99,998 1,666,667
Update Facebook Status 25-40 KB 7,500 – 12,000 125,000 – 200,000
Word document 70 KB 4283 71,429
Web page look-up 150 KB 2003 33,333
Low resolution digital image 500 KB 600 10,000
PowerPoint presentation 3 MB 98 1,667
Download a Song (3 minutes) 3 MB 98 1,667
YouTube video (3 minutes) 15 MB 23 333
1 hour of Skype (audio) @ 64kb/s 28 MB 10 178
1 hour of MagicJack @ 128kb/s 56 MB 5 89
1 hour of Skype Video Chat @ 384 kb/s 169 MB 1.5 29
TV show download (30 minutes) 350 MB 0 14
Movie download 700 MB 0 7

*This doesn’t include software updates that can easily blow you through your limit each month especially if you’ve got them set to automatic. As soon as you turn your back they’ll be eating up your 5 GB limit. To avoid that, you may need to turn them off or closely monitor the size of each update.

Is 5 GB Enough For You?

While the table above is handy, who really sits down and just does any single one of these things online?

Even if you just do email, you’ll have emails with attachments and emails that don’t have attachments. On the flip side however, it’s easy to see what sucks up the most data.

If you didn’t do video and music, it’d be actually hard to blow through 5 GB of data each month. This is doubly true if mobile broadband wasn’t your primary connection to the internet.


give it to you straight.

A 5 GB plan will cover most people’s needs. It is not for power users. Now, how do you figure out if you’re regular or a power user?


yourself these questions:

Questions Average User Power User
Use the internet more than 3 hours per day? No Yes
Will mobile broadband be your main connection? No Yes
Do you download movies or music regularly? No Yes
Do you stream movies or music regularly? No Yes


yes to more than 1 of these questions? Then you’re probably a power

user and should check out an unlimited plan if Clear 4G WiMAX is in your area.

If you are a mobile worker that uses mobile broadband as a secondary connection, you will most likely be fine with a 5 Gigabytes.

A Real World Example Of 5 GB Being More Than Enough

The Nielson company (the TV ratings guys) did a study showing the average amount of time spent online by most people being 68 hours.

That’s about 2 hours and 15 minutes a day. The big question becomes, what do you do during your time online? That’d become the biggest factor in whether or not 5 GB is enough for you.

Using the data from the table of example activities, let’s see how that might work out if you did almost double the time of the average person:

The Scenario

Let’s say you use the internet for 4 hours per day. You browse the web for 2 hours, check email for an hour, and make skype phone calls for another hour.

Let’s also say you spend about 1 minute per email and about 2 minutes per web page. That means you’d get through 60 emails (half have attachments while the others don’t) and 60 web pages.

30 emails without attachments = 90 KB = 0.09 MB

30 emails with attachments = 100 KB * 30 = 3000 KB = 3 MB

60 web pages = 150 KB * 60 = 9500 KB = 9 MB

1 hour of Skype = 28 MB

That’s about 40.09 MB per day or about 1202.7 MB (1.2 GB)

You could check email, browse the web and talk on Skype for a total of 4 hours everyday and only use 1.2 GB each month.

You’d still have 3.8 Gigabytes left over each month that you could download 5 movies with.

But what if you still have concerns and just want to check in to see how you’re doing each week or every other day?

It definitely doesn’t hurt to be in control by knowing exactly how much you’re using as you’re using it.

Here’s How To Keep Track of Your Data Usage Anytime

How you keep track of you data usage will vary from carrier to carrier. For most however, it’s pretty much the same deal.

1. Log into their website

2. Click around

3. View your usage

Checking Data Usage with AT&T

You can check your data usage by logging into at If you haven’t created an account you’ll need to ‘sign up’. When logged in, click the “account overview” tab (close to the top) and select the device you want to check the usage for.


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