What is Cellular Data? (2023)

What is Cellular Data?

What is Cellular Data? (1)

So, you’re paying your cell phone bill and frankly, can’t believe the balance. How did you go 5GB over your monthly allowance? Yikes. That overage fee! In the back of your mind, you realize that cellular data is connected to using the Internet via your cell phone, but you are really unsure how. Let’s help you understand what cellular data is and what activities use it up and help you avoid overage fees in the future.

Cellular data defined

A cell phone connects to the Internet in one of two ways: either by using a WiFi network or by using the cellular data network offered by your wireless provider. Following are the specifics:

WiFi uses radio frequencies to wirelessly transmit the Internet to your devices.

Range: Limited.

Fee: Free. Because your home WiFi uses radio frequencies and not the towers your cellular provider uses, you can use it as much as you want and never face overage charges.

Cellular data uses the same network provided by the cell towers that allow you to make cell phone calls.

Range: As long as you are within your provider’s coverage area, your range is almost unlimited.

Fee: With cellular data, you pay for a monthly cellular data allowance so, if you exceed that allowance you’re charged an overage fee. If you think you might exceed your allowance, it’s wise to monitor your usage over the course of the month.

What activities use cellular data?

The short answer: Any activity you do on your cell phone that requires access to the Internet uses cellular data if you are not connected to a WiFi network.

That’s it in a nutshell. No WiFi? You’re using your allowance of cellular data.

The more detailed answer: Some activities, like streaming video or making a FaceTime video call, use more cellular data than others. Activities that do not use up as much data include: checking and sending text-based emails, browsing articles on the web, and using turn-by-turn navigation. Activities that do not use any data at all include: making phone calls and sending text messages.

How to manage your cellular data via your cellular provider

If you receive a paper bill from your provider, the data usage information is most likely on the second or third page of your invoice. If your provider doesn’t include it, you can call or go online to request a more detailed bill. You can also do the following:

Log into your account from your computer and check the Usage tab.

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Download your provider’s app and check the Usage tab.

Call your provider from your wireless phone:

AT&T: Dial*3282#

T-Mobile: Dial #web#

Verizon: Dial #DATA

How to manage your cellular data via settings

iPhone

If you’re always on top of how much data you’re using, there’s less opportunity to be surprised by overages. Once or twice a month, check in and see how you’re doing. To see how much cellular data you’ve used on your iPhone, do the following:

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular then scroll to Cellular Data.

Android

With Android, you can avoid surprises by limiting your data to a certain amount. Here’s how:

Open Settings. Go to Network & Internet, then Data Usage, and Data Warning & Limit. Here you can set the amount of data you want to use for the month.

Smart ways to save on data:

Turn on data saver or low data mode

When you’re not connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi network, you’re using your data. To save on using it, you can pause certain functions like background data refresh and data syncs by turning on the Data Saver if you use an Android phone, or Low Data Mode if you use an iPhone. It is easy to do and you’ll be glad you learned how to do it!

On iPhone, select your plan and do the following:

LTE/4G Cellular

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular

Tap Cellular Data Options, then turn on Low Data Mode.

5G Cellular

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Go to Settings. Tap Cellular.

Tap Cellular Data Options, select Data Mode, then turn on Low Data Mode.

Dual SIM

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular or Mobile Data.

Tap one of your numbers.

Turn on Low Data Mode.

On Android:

Open Settings.

Go to SIM card and Mobile Data tab.

Tap Data Usage option.

Go to Data Saving option.

Turn on Data Saving.

Stop your apps from “refreshing” themselves

If you’re not on Wi-Fi and you don’t turn on your data saver or low data mode, your apps will keep working in the background collecting information and refreshing themselves while using your data. To prevent this, do the following:

On iPhone:

Go to Settings. Tap general. Tap Background App Refresh. Here, you can choose to have this feature off, available only when you’re on Wi-Fi, or available when you’re on Wi-Fi and cellular data. (Not recommended when you’re trying to use less data!) You can also toggle this on or off for each individual app on your phone.

On Android:

Open Settings. Tap Data Usage. Here you’ll be able to see which apps are using the most data. Decide which app or apps you’d like to restrict, and tap on it.

When you’re home, be on your Wi-Fi

If you’re reading this on your phone in your home, it’s most likely that you are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network. But if you’re not sure, or you’re sure you are not connected to it, turn it on now. Right now. Here’s how:

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  • Go into Settings. You’ll see options like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular, etc. Click on Wi-Fi. Then select the name of your network. When you’re done, tap Settings again and return to its main menu. If Cellular or Bluetooth are on, turn them off. Now that you are on your home’s Wi-Fi network, you don’t need them and having them on will drain the battery in your phone.

Connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi network can significantly reduce the amount of cellular data you use. And once you’ve connected to it as described above, whenever you’re home your device will recognize your Wi-Fi network and connect to it.

Cellular Data: Best Practices

The best way to stop gong over your data limit is to be sure your phone is always connected to WiFi. On WiFi, there’s no need to worry about overage charges and, because smart phones remember networks they’ve been connected to previously, you don’t need to remember passwords because your phone will automatically connect to those networks when you are in range. For example, you connected to your best friend’s WiFi when visiting last year. When you return for another visit, your phone will automatically recognize and connect to your friend’s WiFi network.

Take your data management even further: switch cell phone carriers and get FREE wireless

At Life Wireless we believe in helping you keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket. And how better to that then with free wireless service from Life Wireless.

It’s not difficult to qualify for free cellular service from Life Wireless, if you meet certain requirements, and it takes just a few minutes to complete the application.

A little background

Life Wireless offers government subsidized free cellular service through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this federally funded free cellular service.

About the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

As we mentioned above, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government benefit program operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides discounts on monthly broadband Internet access service. ACP benefits may be obtained from any participating provider of your choice including Life Wireless. Only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Because many families struggle to afford cell phones and Internet access, both of which are vital to staying connected with their children’s schools, doctors, and employers, among others, the Federal Government offers ACP and another program called Lifeline. Using both doubles your connectivity!

About Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal program created to help qualified households pay for connectivity services such as wireless and internet plans.As with the Affordable Connectivity Program, only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Examples of one household:

  • A married couple that lives together
  • A parent/guardian and child who live together
  • An adult who lives with friends or family who financially support him/her

Each of these are one household and must share one benefit.

Examples of more than one household:

  • Four roommates who live together but do not share money are four households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of four benefits.
  • 30 seniors who live in an assisted-living home are 30 households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of 30 total benefits.

Each state has different eligibility requirements such as receiving government assistance or having a household income that is at or below the federal poverty level for the state in which you reside.

In general though, you are qualified to receive Lifeline if you participate in any of the programs listed here:

  • Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid (not Medicare)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veteran's Pension or Survivor's Pension Benefit

Additionally, if you are a resident of a Federally-recognized Tribal land, you may qualify under the following programs:

  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally Administered TANF
  • Head Start (if you meet the income-qualifying standards)

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t it be great to have that $240 to spend on groceries? If you apply for Lifeline and are approved, you’ll receive:

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  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own)

Pair Lifeline with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and DOUBLE your connectivity

If you’re approved for Lifeline and you sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone but has been unable to get one due to the expense.


Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Additional, important, details

Life Wireless service is a prepaid service offered to those eligible for ACP discount benefits and those eligible for Lifeline benefits. To maintain your service and benefits, you need to:

  • activate your service by calling someone,
  • initiating data usage (by going on Facebook, for example), or
  • by responding to instructions from Life Wireless to activate the service.

To keep your account active, you need to use the service at least once during any 30-day period by:

  • calling someone,
  • answering a call from someone other than Life Wireless,
  • sending a text message,
  • using cellular data (again, by going on Facebook or Amazon, for example),
  • purchasing additional service from Life Wireless,
  • or by responding to a direct contact from Life Wireless confirming that you want to continue receiving service from Life Wireless.

Should your service goes unused for 30 days, you will no longer be eligible for Lifeline benefits and your service may be suspended (allowing only 911 calls and calls to the Life Wireless's customer care center), and subject to a 15-day cure period during which you must use the service (as described above) in order to fully re-activate your service, keep your telephone number and remain enrolled in the ACP.

For questions about Life Wireless, visit our Contact Us page here. To enroll now, use the Life Wireless Online Enrollment form.

Fast facts about Life Wireless

Yes, you can add more minutes and data!

You can purchase additional minutes or data one of the following ways:

  • Go towww.LifeWireless.comand click "Add Minutes/Data"
  • If you have a smart phone, go to your MyLifeWireless app and click "Add Minutes".
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.
  • You can also go to any Moneygram location and use Receive Code: 7924

Yes, you can track your minutes!

Your minutes replenish each month on your anniversary date before end of the day. For example if you signed up and received your minutes on the 12th of the month, your minutes will replenish every month on the 12th of the month.

You can check your account balance the following ways:

  • Go towww.LifeWireless.comand click "My Account"
  • Go to your MyLifeWireless app on your phone, and click "Check Balance"
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.

Yes, you can keep your current phone number!

If your application is approved, you have the option to keep your current phone number.

Once you receive your Life Wireless phone in the mail, call Life Wireless Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620 and a representative will assist you in keeping your current number. Make sure that you don't call from your Lifeline phone and have your account number and password from your previous carrier handy.

What our customers are saying:

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!"

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Rebecca L., KY

Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA

“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

Don’t wait. Get FREE wireless service now!

Posted 2 weeks ago

FAQs

How Much cellular data is enough? ›

Most apps and activities consume between 60MB and 300MB of data in an hour. TikTok and Instagram are the most data-hungry apps, eating up 840MB and 720MB/hour, respectively. Web browsing, podcasts, and light online gaming consume the least amount of hourly data.

Is 4GB of cellular data enough? ›

4GB should be plenty for the person who's never not connected to the nearest Wi-Fi network. That's enough to download one app, post about a dozen photos, visit 40 web pages and send about 100 emails per day. See this plan.

What exactly is cellular data? ›

Mobile data (also called “wireless” or “cellular” data) is how you connect to the Web when you're not on WiFi. While some mobile users have unlimited monthly mobile data plans, others will have finite amounts of data each month, or even pay for blocks of data as they go.

What happens if you go over your cellular data limit? ›

On a mobile data plan, using more than your allowance each month usually attracts a surcharge, or your provider may slow down your data connection. Your provider may automatically give you the extra data as a top-up and charge you for it as you use it. This extra data is sometimes called an add on.

How many hours does it take to use 1GB of data? ›

A 1GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 12 hours, to stream 200 songs or to watch 2 hours of standard-definition video. Nowadays, the key difference between mobile phone price plans is how many gigabytes of data it comes with.

Is 2GB of data enough for a month? ›

Browsing the net with 2GB will last for around 33 hours. So you could browse for around one hour per day before reaching your limit. Similarly, you could use social media for less than an hour each day.

How many GB of data do you really need? ›

Most people need around 600 GB of data per month for their home internet connection. That gives you enough data to stream movies, play online games, and participate in video conferencing calls.

How many GB of data is good for a phone? ›

Most users need anywhere from 2GB to 10GB of mobile data. The average Canadian mobile customer uses less than 4GB of data each month, but your individual needs will vary depending on your most frequented apps and activities.

How many GB does a person use a month? ›

Indeed, according to NPD, the average U.S. smartphone user now consumes a total of 31.4 GB of data on a monthly basis (a figure that includes both Wi-Fi and cellular consumption). That's up fully 25% from a year prior.

What do you need cellular data for? ›

Cellular allows you to access the internet, apps, Twitter, Instagram, Google, or your email pretty much wherever you're located. You just need to have a phone plan with a data allowance and be in range of a cell tower.

What uses a lot of data? ›

What uses the most data on your mobile device? Streaming HD video content is by far the biggest perpetrator when it comes to draining your monthly mobile data allowance, however it's the combination of everything you do your mobile device which adds up to your overall data threshold.

What counts as data usage? ›

Data usage is how much data your phone uploads or downloads using mobile data. To make sure that you're not using too much data on your data plan, you can check and change your data usage.

Can I use cellular data if I have unlimited data? ›

But, this isn't the case. Even on cell phone plans with unlimited data, there will be a cap for how much data you can use as a mobile hotspot. Once you reach that limit, the data will be deprioritized, which basically means your data speed will slow way down until your limit starts over the following month.

What happens when you finish your data? ›

Generally speaking, two things can happen when you reach your data cap: Your data speeds will temporarily be slowed until the next billing cycle. Your data will be cut off and you won't have access to data until the next month.

Can I buy more data for my phone? ›

Depending on your carrier, you could be able to buy mobile data through your Settings app on your phone. Your carrier sets the prices and choices. You use your regular payment method with your carrier.

Is 5GB of data enough for a month? ›

For most trips, 3GB or 5GB of data will be enough to cover common internet usage. However, if you are planning on using the internet more or if you are traveling for a month or longer, you might want to consider cards with up to 7GB of data.

How long does 5GB of data last on Iphone? ›

A 5GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 60 hours, to stream 1,000 songs or to watch 10 hours of standard-definition video.

Is 10GB a lot of data for a month? ›

How much is 10GB of data? According to Ofcom, the average person uses around 2.9GB of data per month, a statistic which is rising each year with the evolution of technology. That means 10GB is most likely more than enough for the average phone user. However, it entirely depends on how you personally use your phone.

Is it possible to use 5GB of data in a day? ›

How many hours will 5GB of data last for? Theoretically, you could browse the internet for eight whole days without stopping before hitting your 5GB limit! In a more practical example, you could browse for a couple of hours every few days for the entire month.

How much data do you really need per month? ›

To ensure you never run out of data, you'll probably need a monthly data allowance of around 20GB.

How many minutes is 1GB of data? ›

How much is 1GB of data? GB is short for Gigabyte - and is equivalent to 1024 megabytes (MB) or 1,048,576 kilobytes (KB). As a rough guide, 1GB of data would let you do one of the following: Watch one hour and 20 minutes of video at Standard Definition.

Do text messages use data? ›

You can send and receive text (SMS) and multimedia (MMS) messages through the Messages app . Messages are considered texts and don't count toward your data usage. Your data usage is also free when you turn on chat features.

How much data does the average person use per month 2022? ›

Monthly household broadband consumption 2010 to 2022

The monthly average of data consumed by internet users in the same period was 513.8 GB, or over half a terabyte. This is up 11% from the 2021 4th quarter report.

How long will 10 GB of data last? ›

A 10GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 120 hours, to stream 2,000 songs or to watch 20 hours of standard-definition video.

Is 4gb of data enough for a month? ›

With a monthly plan that includes 4 GB of data, you can watch 300 minutes of video per month (the equivalent of ten 30-minute sitcoms), surf 50 web pages daily, upload 10 pictures, stream 15 minutes of music and send 50 emails every day.

Is 1 GB of data enough for a month? ›

How much is 1GB of data? Ofcom's 2021 report states that phone users (on average) opt for 4.5GB of mobile data for the month. In comparison, a 1GB bundle is a fair bit below average. This is a reflection of how much data we use these days - 1GB simply isn't enough for most!

How many GB is unlimited data? ›

The standard unlimited data plan includes unlimited minutes, unlimited messages, and unlimited high-speed data up to a certain data cap. Usually this high-speed data cap is 22–23 GB.

Why is my phone using data when I'm not on it? ›

Mobile data is used in the background by some apps. If you keep it turned on, it will still be consuming your allowance even if you're not actively doing anything on your phone. Things get worse if you allow your apps to update using data.

Is 3GB data enough for a day? ›

A 3GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 36 hours, to stream 600 songs or to watch 6 hours of standard-definition video.

How many GB of data is good for a month? ›

Most people need around 600 GB of data per month for their home internet connection. That gives you enough data to stream movies, play online games, and participate in video conferencing calls.

How many GB does the average person use a month? ›

Indeed, according to NPD, the average U.S. smartphone user now consumes a total of 31.4 GB of data on a monthly basis (a figure that includes both Wi-Fi and cellular consumption). That's up fully 25% from a year prior.

How much data does an average person use a month? ›

The average North American used 11.1 GB per month in 2020. But many people use a lot more than that. In this article, we'll help you figure out how much you need and how you can get a good deal on a data plan that meets your needs.

How much data does the average person need per month? ›

To ensure you never run out of data, you'll probably need a monthly data allowance of around 20GB.

How much data do I actually need? ›

Even 1GB will be cutting it close, so for some breathing room we'd generally suggest at least 2GB. Meanwhile, if you're using mobile data much of the day, every day, or using data intensive things like video streaming and tethering regularly, you'll probably want at least 30GB – and even that might not be enough.

Is 5GB data enough for a month? ›

For most trips, 3GB or 5GB of data will be enough to cover common internet usage. However, if you are planning on using the internet more or if you are traveling for a month or longer, you might want to consider cards with up to 7GB of data.

Does taking pictures use data? ›

1. Stop the social media madness. When you're uploading that hilarious photo or amazing video to your favorite social media app, remember that you're using data. An 8-megapixel photo on your smartphone can approach 5 megabytes, and some smartphones have more than 8 megapixels.

How long does 2GB of data last on Iphone? ›

A 2GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 24 hours, to stream 400 songs or to watch 4 hours of standard-definition video.

Is 10GB of data a month enough? ›

How much is 10GB of data? According to Ofcom, the average person uses around 2.9GB of data per month, a statistic which is rising each year with the evolution of technology. That means 10GB is most likely more than enough for the average phone user.

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