If you look at online plan descriptions from popular providers in our area: Rogers, Bell and Telus, which all offer Unlimited Data, they mention that the base plan for this includes 10 GB of unlimited data, then reduced speeds of 256 KB when you surpass your high-speed quota; but what does that actually mean in terms of the speeds that you could be getting?
I (Kait-Lynn, Outreach Coordinator) am currently a Telus mobile subscriber and recently switched to Unlimited Data plan. Three (3) speed tests were complete to document the differences. One test was completed with the “High-Speed” mobile data, another with “reduced Speed” mobile data. Note: Wi-Fi connection to the DSL home network during normal leisure use (with Wi-Fi-assist turned off) was used to really see the difference:
DSL Wireless Internet
8.57 Mbps Download
0.38 Mbps Download
5.17 Mbps Download
If you are posting videos on Social Media or uploading data online, you can see that the High-Speed Unlimited Data does provide the fastest option. To bring some perspective, a test was completed to also see how long it would take to upload a video to YouTube using all 3 scenarios described in above table:
A 25-minute video capture on Unlimited Data High-Speed took approximately 40 minutes. Facebook updates, loads content and videos quickly and nearly instantaneously, internet browsing loads nearly instantly as well, YouTube/Netflix loads very quick.
A 5-minute video capture on Reduced Speeds took approximately one hour (1 hr). Facebook takes a little longer to load, watching videos on Facebook has buffering for longer, browsing you can really notice the reduced speeds, and going elsewhere is not worth it.
A 5-minute video capture on the Wi-Fi Wireless connection to the home network, connecting via DLS to the Internet stated over an hour. The device was plugged directly into the wireless router’s ethernet port and that connection took approximately 52 minutes to complete the 5-minute video upload. On wireless, Facebook loads decently, Videos do have some buffering typically, browsing some pages the loading is reduced but not for long periods of time, Netflix and YouTube buffers occasionally.
*Note that your speeds will vary depending on the activity on your wireless network from other devices or applications. While the uploads were in process, all normal activities from all other devices in the house connected to the network were disconnected while the speed test was taking place.
WHAT IS WI-FI ASSIST/ADAPTIVE WI-FI?
Embedded in your mobile device settings - if you have a mobile data plan - is an option where there is a Wi-Fi Assist/Adaptive Wi-Fi setting. This option enables your mobile device to also pull from your data network simultaneously while on your wireless connection. In case speeds get reduced or congested on the mobile cellular network, data transfer is also done from the Wi-Fi network so you won’t see much of that impact. In a sense, it is acting as a type of booster to navigate on your mobile device.
To further put this into perspective (and possibly why you are consuming so much from your Data Plan), an hour of scrolling through Facebook feeds or content uses roughly 100 MB of mobile data, or approximately 1.5 megabytes per minute while scrolling through content but not watching videos! Netflix uses around 1 GB of data per hour for video streaming with Standard Definition and 3 GB per hour while using High Definition. These all add up, especially if you use Wi-Fi Assist/Adaptive Wi-Fi with your mobile device or your apps that use data, run in the background (if you don’t close them, they stay opened and updated/current). These can impact your data plan consumption a lot if you are not closely monitoring your Apps usage. This could be an indication of congested network capacity if you are on Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi Assist/Adaptive Wi-Fi is pulling a lot more data than anticipated from your mobile cellular network.
WHAT IS NETWORK CONGESTION? – Read more about it here!
There are ways to manage your Mobile Data usage on your devices. You can typically navigate to your settings and, under cellular, check to see which applications are using mobile data and which ones have automatic refreshing turned ‘on’ when they are not closed. Also, look at your notification settings, the Push Notifications for connected applications use around 4 kB each – this might not sound like a lot but most average users get 46 of these notifications per day = 0.184 Mb per month, which again isn’t much unless you are a very connected user, and scrolling your newsfeeds while not on a wireless connection – thus consuming a lot of data! These are just the average and frequently used Applications.
Generally speaking, unlimited Mobile Data plans are here to stay, and we have seen the difference that they can make for a very connected user. Kait-Lynn, on average, uses approximately 8 GB to 10 GB of mobile cellular data both whilst being and not being connected to Wi-Fi on her mobile device, primarily using it to upload content and to scroll through and watch videos. Kait-Lynn has noted that she had gone over her 15 GB monthly data allotment on more than an occasion, while on vacation or trips, while documenting certain things, or using web-based applications, she does agree she is very connected and out of the normal/typical mobile user.