How much mobile data do you really need?

Which plans or bundles do you need to choose — without breaking the bank?

Cleo Pimentel-Capili, Special to Guides
07:00 July 5, 2017
Social Media
Girl on mobile

Let’s tackle the basics

Important questions to ask yourself:

Do you stream movies, videos or music? Do you chat constantly? Are you always on social media?

In the UAE you have the option of committing to a one to two-year plan or you can enjoy the flexibility of prepaid, which may even be more cost-effective.

We help you get a clear picture of whether or not you will benefit from going post-paid or if you really need to ditch your pre-paid data plan.

Data usage explained

Unless you have unlimited broadband, everything you do online is taken from your data allowance.

Social Media

While some data plans let you have unlimited access to WhatsApp, Instagram, BBM, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, normal web browsing and email are sometimes not included at all.

Tip: You may subscribe to a monthly data pack; however, once it expires you’ll automatically be charged Dh1 per MB until you buy a new data pack. 

Calculate how much internet data are you using?

The table below will give you a better idea of how much data is consumed with your basic online activities. These are average user numbers - your actual usage may likely be around these estimates, but may depend on a number of factors.

ActivityData Consumption
One hour of web surfing10 - 25MB
Download a file2MB
One hour of Facebook or Instagram20MB
Download music4MB
Stream 30 min. of YouTube video175MB
Download a standard film (720p)700MB - 1GB
Download an HD film (1020p)4GB
Stream one hour of standard video250MB - 500MB
Stream one hour of HD video2GB
Stream one hour of music150MB

(Averages were taken from different providers, including Etisalat, Du, and international surveys.)

Data calculator

So how much data do I really need?

Frankly, the answer depends on you. There are a lot of benefits that come with pre-paid data plans while you may find your most suitable one in post-paid. 

Try out this data calculator by Du to find what your monthly needs are. Etisalat also has a similar calculator that helps you estimate how much data, on an average, your monthly online activities consume.

Posting a pic

Over to you: Pre-paid vs Post-paid


  1. Ideal for those on a fixed budget
  2. Pay upfront and refill when you need more airtime
  3. No monthly fees or contracts
  4. Pay per minute, or take up a bundle service


  1. More flexible
  2. More benefits (minutes, data, international calls etc.)
  3. Hassle free and uninterrupted monthly service
  4. You don’t have to worry about recharging

Final thoughts

You need to consider the features you always use. You will end up spending more on a pre-paid if you want to check your e-mail, social media accounts, and stream mini-videos online regularly. But if you are someone who can connect to Wi-Fi for a large chunk of the day, you may not need any data at all. Then pre-paid plan might be your best option.

Post-paid would be perfect if you are someone who makes a lot of calls. Long distance calls are sometimes included for free when on a monthly plan.

Find the right amount for you then pick the best offers from Du, Etisalat or Virgin Mobile.