What Is a Data Plan for a Cellphone?

Cellphone plan for internet connectivity

A data plan is the part of your phone plan that gives you connectivity anywhere your mobile service carrier's towers reach.

Connectivity is the ability to access the internet, and your data plan allows it wherever you are, whether on your smartphone or another mobile device. A data plan gets you connected to a 3G, 4G, 5G, or LTE network.

Do You Need a Data Plan?

It's called a data plan because it offers data transmission through an IP network and, ultimately, a connection to the internet. This is in contrast to traditional GSM service, which provides voice and simple text transmission only.

You might need a data plan if:

  • You need constant access to your email on the go.
  • You want to use VoIP extensively.
  • You need access to your social networking account while on the move.
  • You need to be able to share text and multimedia files from wherever you are.
  • You use cloud computing and need access from anywhere.
  • You like playing online games.
  • You want to stream music and videos.
  • You just want to feel connected.

Some people are satisfied with a Wi-Fi hotspot at home, at work, or in public places and don’t need mobility everywhere.

What Does a Data Plan Cost?

Until recently, the cost of data plans varied according to the amount of bandwidth you purchase monthly. However, many carriers now offer unlimited data plans or plans that slow transmission speeds after you have exhausted a predefined amount of high-speed data.

The cost also depends on the deal you make when buying your smartphone. Many service providers bundle their services with new devices, which are sold for less when purchased with service contracts or financing plans.

How Much Data Per Month?

Typical packages for data plans are (as a matter of example) 200 MB, 1G, 2G, 4G, and unlimited. Data usage calculators online help you calculate your data usage and needs.

Controlling Your Data Plan Usage

You must pay attention to how much data you are using if your data plan is not unlimited. Items to monitor include emails sent and received (because received data also counts), streaming music and video, viewed web pages, social media usage, video conferencing, and VoIP. Numerous online tools help you control and monitor your data usage, notifying you of thresholds passed and informing you on quantities used.

FAQ
  • Who has the best unlimited data plan?

    It depends on what you're looking for in a data plan. If you want the best coverage, Verizon is your best bet overall. The budget conscious should give Mint Mobile a try, while people mostly interested in streaming and bonus perks like HBO Max might like AT&T's data plans.

  • How much data do you get with a Straight Talk $55 plan?

    The Straight Talk $55 plan comes with unlimited data plus 15 GB of hotspot data. However, the carrier says it reserves the right to review your account after you've used 60 GB of data. This means it might throttle your data speeds once you reach that 60 GB threshold.

  • What is a shared data plan?

    If you have a shared data plan, it means you split a single pool of data with every line in the plan. So, for example, if you're on a family plan with three other people and it offers 18 GB of data per month, it doesn't mean you all get 18 GB of data. It means you all share the same 18 GB.

  • How do you check data usage on an iPhone?

    Go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. Scroll down to see a list of which apps are using data. If you don't want an app to use data, toggle the switch off. This forces the app to use Wi-Fi only.

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