What is Data in a Phone Plan?

data in a phone plan

What is a Phone Plan?

A phone plan is a service agreement between a telecommunications operator and a paying subscriber.  The company provides access to its cell service network in return for a fee paid by the subscriber. Phone plans are bundled into call, text and data, which gives the subscriber access to services over the network including phone calls, text messages and internet data.

What is a Data Plan?

As defined by Tech Walla, a data plan is a plan which covers ‘everything you do on the internet — browse the web, download files, watch videos — while using the cell service”.

A data plan is the part of a phone plan which connects you to the network in order for you to carry out activities on the internet.

Understanding Mobile Data

Mobile data, as defined by Tech Target is, ‘internet delivered to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets over wireless cellular connection’.

Wireless cellular connectivity has been offered through various technologies, particularly GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). In the past, networks offered 1G and 2G. In many parts of the world today, 3G and 4G/LTE are active. However, a revolution is coming with other areas in the process of adapting their technologies to the now available 5G.

What does Mobile Data Allow you to do?

Mobile data grants smartphone and Internet capable device users access to any and all forms of activity on the Internet. Once you are connected to a cellular network and able to use mobile data, you will be able to carry out numerous functions including;

  • Surfing the web
  • Streaming videos
  • Streaming music
  • Accessing social media

How does Mobile Data Work?

Mobile data works in a simple manner where mobile phones and connectivity are concerned.

Mobile phones contain in-built antenna. These antennas are utilized to send packets of digital information – data – between a cell phone and cellular network towers via radio waves. With mobile data, instead of the phone connecting to a cell tower and then being connected to another cell phone (as would it occur with voice calls), it connects to the Internet to send or retrieve data.

How is Mobile Data Measured and Charged?

Mobile data is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB).

Megabytes and gigabytes are a unit of measurement applicable to digital storage. One megabyte is made up of 1,000 bytes or 1,000 kilobytes. One gigabyte is equal to 1,000 megabytes, 1,000,000 kilobytes and 1,000,000,000 bytes.

On average, 1 gigabyte of data allows a mobile user to;

  • Download 100,000 emails
  • View 200 3-minute videos
  • Watch five 45-minute TV shows
  • Stream over 30 hours of radio
  • Stream nearly 2 hours of standard-definition TV

Mobile data is charged in two major ways; based on a tariff (Pay-As-You-Go) or based on data bundle plans.

For tariff plans, mobile data is charged depending on the service agreement with your network provider. With data bundle plans, a data allowance is allocated for an agreed-upon fee. Once this data is exhausted, steep fees known as overage charges are added to the regular amount of the contract.

The Major Units to be Aware of

When it comes to mobile data, the key units and the subscriber must be aware of are megabytes and gigabytes.

Mobile data is measured in these values and any form of data sent or retrieved on the Internet takes a certain amount out of any subscribers allocated data allowance. For example, if a subscriber opts for a 20 GB data plan and downloads a movie that is 1.5GB, this value will be taken out of the initial data allocation.

Mobile data is your internet provider’s way to connect your phone to the internet. It uses your phone’s signal and a cellular tower to connect you to the internet. Your mobile plan will include a data allocation, and all internet activities will use up some of that allowance. It’s worthwhile knowing how much data you have been allocated and how much you usually use, as if you go over your data plan you will have to pay excess fees. Stay within your plan fees and get connected, by utilizing your mobile data.


Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.