Someone using several Internet-connected devices at once, a quick way to run up data usage.

Data Usage | How Much Data Do You Need?

What Are Your Data Usage Needs?

In today's world, we rely on the Internet for just about everything. From streaming movies and music to checking emails and browsing the web, the Internet is a part of our everyday lives. But so much of what we do requires data, and it's not always clear how much data is needed to do these daily tasks.

In this blog, we'll explore data usage, what it is, how much is used when you're doing Internet tasks, and how to ensure you have the data you need when you need it.

What is Data?

Before we talk about how much data is needed, let's talk about what data is. Internet data is the digital information you consume as you spend time on the Internet. Everything on the Internet uses data, from streaming content to browsing websites, so the more time you spend using the Internet, the more data you consume. Internet Service Providers like Spectrum or AT&T (or us) will often advertise their plans with a lot of numbers, initialisms, and terms like "allowance" or "data cap," which can be confusing to parse. An easy way to understand it all is to look at which letters are capitalized. If you're looking at a home Internet plan, and you see a number followed by all capital letters (like MB, GB, or TB), that's the data limit or capacity set by the ISP. When you see a number followed by some combination of capital and lowercase letters (like Mbps), that refers to the speed at which your plan allows you to use your data. It’s all technical, and these plans can vary, from the basic to the more robust, like Shentel’s unlimited data plan, which offers all the data you need whenever you need it. It’s all kind of confusing, but this can be an easy way, at a glance, to know what's going on.

How Much Data Am I Using?

As you are doing things on the Internet, you are using data. Unfortunately, not everything we do has a cut-and-dry figure attached to it.

How Much Data Does Streaming Use?

For instance, video streaming shows uses data, but the quality of the stream affects how much data is being used. Watching Netflix in 4K will use more data than watching it at 720p, a trade-off that exists everywhere. Higher-quality music streams require more data, for example, and emails with pictures attached consume more data than text alone. How you use the Internet will affect how much data you're using and, in turn, how much you're paying for your plan.

Most ISPs have a base plan that allows for a one terabyte (TB) data limit, with higher cost options that allow for higher data caps. Some also advertise "unlimited data" options with no data caps at all.

What is a Terabyte? How Many Gigabytes are in a Terabyte?

Terabytes are typically the largest unit of storage capacity you’ll see when looking at data plans, followed by gigabytes, and then megabytes. For reference, one terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes (GB), and one gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes (MB), meaning one terabyte is equal to roughly 1 million megabytes, which is…a lot. Again, confusing, but it’s helpful to know as we break down some numbers.

How Do My Internet Habits Compare?

Email and web browsing use very little data. Every email requires about 10 MB to open. If you open 100 emails per day, every day, you use about 30 GB of data per month, which is quite a bit lower than a typical 1 TB limit. On the other hand, streaming and more intensive Internet activities require more.

Television streaming services are roughly equal in how much data they require. There are slight differences, but, by and large, expect the differences in data consumption to be minor. Netflix provides data estimates for each streaming setting, from lower quality, pixelated streams to 4K/Ultra HD. Low-quality streams only use up to 0.3 GB per hour, while high-quality streams, even in standard definition, use roughly 1 GB per hour. That is approximately three times the data in the same amount of time. High-definition streams use up to 3 GB per hour, and 4K content can use up to 7 GB per hour. This means that when watching a 4K stream of a movie or television show on Netflix, you use roughly 20 times the amount of data as its low-quality equivalent. Additionally, 4K streams use the same data every hour as 5 or 6 days of checking emails (per our email example above).

If you are on a base Internet plan with a 1 TB limit or data cap, you can watch just under 150 hours of 4K content on Netflix per month without hitting your limit. That sounds like a lot, but you have to remember: everything on the Internet uses data, which means if you play games online or video chat for work, you are using data there as well.

Fortunately, Shentel customers don't ever have to wonder how much data they are using. By logging into their account at, customers can see their data allowance displayed in an easy-to-understand, visual format. Shentel customers also get reminded via an email and an in-browser pop-up when they get close to hitting the cap on their allowance. Customers can also opt-in for text reminders. Shentel makes understanding your data habits easy.

How Much Data Do I Need?

The key to understanding how much data you need comes down to just how you use the Internet. Heavy Internet users are likely going to want or need higher data caps. This means they will be able to do the things they love, at the quality they enjoy, without worrying about hitting their limit. Conversely, more casual Internet users, or users that are less bothered by fewer bells and whistles, can get away with lower data caps without much effort. If you're worried about hitting your limit, consider an unlimited data plan if it's available. Or, if you want to spend less on your plan, try auditing your Internet usage. Trim down on areas you don't feel you need and remove some smart devices from your life.


Despite the Internet being such a deeply ingrained part of our daily lives, it can be tough to understand how it works. And with data requirements being so fluid and broad, it can be difficult to know how much we need, even for the experts among us. That’s why you need a service provider that understands you and is available whenever you need them, ready to answer the questions you have. Here at Shentel, we are committed to providing the Internet services you need to stay connected, and we pride ourselves on doing so in a way that makes sense.

To learn more about the plans we offer, or to ask any questions, feel free to get in touch with us today!