Understanding and Monitoring Your Mobile Data Usage

If you have a phone that can check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, surf the web, or send emails, then you have a monthly data allowance.

This is the amount of internet use you are allowed in a month using your carrier's cellular network without being charged extra.

Most mobile phones come with a mobile data plan from your carrier. In the U.S., your carrier will probably be Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.

There are two types of bandwidth networks you can use to watch streaming video or upload video to a site like YouTube or Vimeo.

You can use WiFi. Streaming over WiFi doesn't use your cellular data allowance. Try to make sure you are connected to a WiFi network. Many businesses like McDonalds, Starbucks and public libraries have free WiFi networks for patrons. You might have to ask for a password. Cable and Telco operators are installing free WiFi hotspots around the cities and towns they serve for their customers. Each has a map of their hotspots on their web sites.

Below are apps you can download to be able to find free WiFi locations for both iOS and Android.

However, if you must use your cellular data plan to watch video or upload video, it is important to understand how much of your data plan you're using.

First, know how much your monthly data plan is. You can log into your carrier's website to see how much data you have used in your current billing cycle.

Second, set an alert to be notified by your cellular provider when you are getting close to going over your monthly plan cap. You can set this alert on your carrier's website. Third, install the My Data Manager app from Mobidia (video and link below for iOS and Android) to be able to monitor your usage yourself. David Martin of DailyMotion has an instructional video.

How much cellular bandwidth will you use when you watch video?

As a rule of thumb, 1 minute of video=4MB. If you watch 300 minutes of streaming video on a cellular network, you will use about 1GB of your data plan. (There are 1,024MB in 1GB).

It takes a little effort. However, the tools are available to help you to stay within your data plan.