What Is a Data Plan?

Cell phone plan for internet connectivity

Man With Mobile Smart Phone

Maartje van Caspel / Getty Images

A data plan is part of the service that mobile operators offer to give you connectivity anywhere under the sky.

The keyword here is connectivity. You want to be able to access the Internet wherever you are, on your smartphone or another mobile device. A data plan involves getting you connected to a 3G, 4G, 5G, or LTE network.

Do I Need a Data Plan?

They call it a data plan because, in contrast to the traditional GSM service, which provides voice and simple text transmission only, it offers data transmission through an IP network and, ultimately, a connection to the Internet, where multimedia resources can be accessed.

Take some time to plan before getting signing a contract. You need a data plan if, for example,

  • You need to have constant access to your email on the go;
  • You want to use VoIP extensively;
  • You need to have access to your social networking account while on the move;
  • You need to be able to share text and multimedia files wherever you are;
  • You use cloud computing and need access from anywhere;
  • You just can’t beat that need to play online games;
  • You want to stream music and videos while on the move;
  • You just want to feel connected.

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

What Does a Data Plan Cost?

The cost of data plans varies according to the amount of bandwidth you purchase monthly. It also depends on the deal you make when buying your smartphone, as most data plan service providers bundle their service with new devices, which are sold for much cheaper when sold in attachment with a one-year or two-year service engagement.

The average data plan costs around $25 per month for a limit of 2 gigabytes a month that counts for both up and down data. Beyond that, you pay around 10 cents for each additional megabyte that you use.

How Much Data per Month?

Typical packages for data plans are (as a matter of example) 200 MB, 1G, 2G, 4G, and unlimited. The further the limit, the more your monthly charge is, but the more you move above, the lesser your cost per MB is. To avoid paying for data overages or wasting unused data, estimate your data usage per month. Data usage calculators online help with this.

Controlling Your Data Plan Usage

As mentioned above, you need to pay attention to how much data you are using if your data plan is not unlimited. Items to put on your list include emails sent and received (because received data counts as well), streaming music and video, viewed web pages viewed, social media usage, video conferencing, and VoIP.

You can estimate your VoIP usage. There are numerous tools on the Internet that allow you to control and monitor your data usage, notifying you of thresholds passed and informing you on quantities used. Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Nokia have their apps from third-party developers.