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Figuring Out the 5 Gigabyte (5 GB) Cap

Figuring Out the 5 Gigabyte (5 GB) Cap

Time to face the music.

These companies are here to make money. That is priority numero uno. Good customer service, good prices, and good plans only exist to turn a profit.

Companies used to offer unlimited plans until they weren’t making as much (read: we downloaded too much). That led the industries to create the popular structure of:

  • Basic Plans – 50 Megabytes (MB) or less
  • ‘Average’ Plans – 5 Gigabytes (GB)AC
  • Unlimited Plans

Okay, most people get what unlimited means, but what the heck is 50 MB or 5 GB?
It’s not like cell phone companies where you can count minutes. We know what minutes are. We all read the time, all the time!

Tell someone you’ll be there in 5 minutes and they get that. Tell ’em you’re going over your usage cap in the next 10 Megabytes and expect the “lost in space” look.

Today we’re going to demystify all the jargon. I’ll walk you through:

  • What you can do with 50 MB of data
  • What you can do with 5 GB of data
  • What you can’t do with unlimited data
  • How to pick brilliantly pick a plan to avoid the fret of using too much bandwidth.

Basic Plans

They are well, pretty basic. If you’re not careful, you’ll blaze through the 50 MB faster than Michael Phelps in water at the Olympics. It’s just not a lot. Does that mean not to get it? Not necessarily.
An efficiency plan can work if you only check email or browse the web. Large files become questionable. Definitely watch out for windows update. Some updates can be 100 MB or more. Last thing you need is to get slapped with a gazillion dollar bill and all you did was restart your computer. Thanks Microsoft!
Downloading movies or music is just out the question. The average album is about 80 MB while movies are 700 MB at best. Of course, this leads us to elusive questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and…
“Man, so what can 50 MB get me?”

Nielsen-netratings.com says the average U.S. websurfer loads 1,500+ web pages per month. Popular webpages can be junked up with ads so each one accounts for 100-200KB of data downloaded.

– CNN.com is 93kb while Google is a mere 6 kb –

This means that on average, a typical user will download over 20MB of data just doing ‘routine’ web surfing. That however, doesn’t include email you might download using desktop clients like Outlook.
The problem isn’t so much the email here, but spam. If possible, try to avoid using Outlook to download all your email. Try a web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo. That way, if you do get spam, it’s in a folder you don’t download (read: you pay for it).

Here’s a table that summarizes what we’ve spoken about so far:

Activity/Download | File Size | # of times before you hit 50 MB
1 email | 10 KB | 5,000
1 webpage visit to CNN | ~100 KB | 512
1 downloaded song from iTunes | 4 MB | 13
1 typical 3 minute video on YouTube/Google | 5 MB | 10

So, just need email? Then you can get a basic plan. If not, then maybe you need to consider:

5 Gigabyte Plans
I’ll give it to you straight. A 5 GB plan will cover most people’s needs. It is not for power users. Now, how do you figure out if you’re regular or a power user? Ask yourself these questions:

Questions | Average User | Power User
Use the internet more than 3 hrs/day? | No | Yes
Will an aircard be your main connection? | No | Yes
Do you download movies or music regularly? | No | Yes
Do you stream movies/music regularly? | No | Yes

Answered yes to more than 1 of these questions? Then you’re probably a power user and should check out an unlimited plan. Not sure? Take a look at:

What can 5 Gigabytes get me?

Activity/Download | File Size | # of times before you hit 50 MB
1 email | 10 KB | 500,000 times
1 webpage visit to CNN.com | 100 KB | 5,242 times
1 downloaded song from iTunes | 4 MB | 1,250 times
1 typical 3 minute video on YouTube/Google | 5 MB | 1,000 times
1 hour of 56k audio stream | 25 MB | 200 hrs
1 typical 5 minute video on iTunes | 30 MB | 167 times
1 hour of video stream or 2-way video chat | 52 MB | 97 hrs
1 typical 45-minute TV show from iTunes | 200 MB | 25 times
1 Full-length (2 hours) movie download | 1.5 GB | 3 times
1 entire DVD disk image | 4.5 GB | 1 time

Unlimited Plans

Just the fact that you’re reading this part probably means you might need this plan.
Whether you’re on the go from airport to airport, building webpages or downloading movies and music, you stay connected. You’re a power user through and through.

Mobile Broadband providers may tremble at the mention of your name. Nothing else but unlimited will suffice. If that’s you, there are only a handful of carriers that provide unlimited mobile broadband. See the end of this article for where you can find them.

While the plan may be unlimited, ‘prohibited’ uses can get you banned by your provider. Those include:

  • Always on connections such as P2P, BitTorrent, server devices
  • Spam
  • Auto-responders that generate ‘excessive’ traffic
  • Any form of hacking

Think of it this way. They just don’t want you to suck up all the internet for yourself like an industrial vacuum. Though it might be fun, it’d be selfish. Other than that, you should be fine.

So, to recap on what we covered:

  • Basic plans are great for just browsing the web and checking email
  • Average (or 5 GB) plans work well for most people
  • Unlimited plans are for power users who use the internet ‘intensively’
  • Don’t use mobile broadband for ‘questionable’ activities (If you do, I ‘didn’t see no thin!’)

Now you know what each plan can get you. Heck, you probably already know which one you’ll get.
Hold up though.

What if you get it and it’s not working out for you? Or, You’ve already got it and you realized that it’s not for you? It’d really bite to be stuck for 2 years paying for something you don’t like.