Browse Definitions:

mobile data

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Mobile data is Internet content delivered to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets over a wireless cellular connection.

Cellular providers have offered mobile data through a number of different technologies including GSM (in 1G, 2G, 3G UMTS and 4G LTE Advanced), CDMA and TDMA.  Mobile data plans offer varying amounts of data transfer per month for a range of rates. The most expensive plans typically offer unlimited data; the low end may provide less than a gigabyte (GB).

Mobile data requirements for various activities:


Data requirement


50kb per message

Uploading pictures

1.5MB per photo (variable)


1-2MB per minute (autoplay video disabled)

Web surfing

2.5MB per minute (variable)


1.5MB per minute (highly variable, applies only to gaming   online)

Music streaming

1-2MB per minute

Podcast streaming

60-100MB per hour, depending on buffering and data quality   and compression


2.5-6MB per minute, higher end for HD (high definition)   video


1GB-3GB per hour, higher end for HD


At 2.5MB per minute, eight hours of Web surfing uses a gigabyte of data. Watching high definition Netflix content at 3GB per hour can quickly eat through a larger data allowance. Many users opt to use Wi-Fi for online content whenever possible and some users forgo mobile data altogether.

 White Space Wi-Fi (White-Fi) is a new standard that is expected to make mobile data more affordable. The new wireless technology offers greater range, extending for just under seven miles, in contrast to the two-block range of Wi-Fi. White-Fi also features better penetration of obstacles, at speeds well beyond those of  3G and 4G mobile broadband.

This was last updated in June 2016

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