No amount of wishing will change the fact that Internet providers cannot provide limitless bandwidth. Data caps are becoming more of a problem with the growing popularity of high-bandwidth Internet activity like video streaming or online gaming, and compounded in light of ever-increasing Internet speeds.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now drastically cut back bandwidth to dial-up speeds, or slower for customers who surpass their monthly allowances. Mobile data plan customers face similar bandwidth limitations for their smart phone usage.
Data limits in the hundreds of gigabytes make it hard to go over your monthly allowance on your home WiFi network. The only users who will feasibly run into problems here are those who routinely download movies, or play online games. Nonetheless, here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Install DD-WRT firmware on your router to help keep better tabs on usage, or download data monitoring programs like Ntop or SurplusMeter.
- Keep an eye on torrent or movie downloads, streaming videos and anything that requires consistent Internet usage for an extended period of time, like online gaming.
On every carrier except for Sprint, unlimited data plans are a thing of the past. Most data plans cap users at between three and five GB per month, and charge for extra usage. Here are some tips for staying within the data limit, and avoiding extra charges.
- Keep tabs on your data usage: Your phone should have a way to monitor data usage. Find out how for Android or iPhone.You can also download a data tracking app. AT&T and Verizon both offer their own, or get something third-party like My Data Manager or Onavo, which also compresses the data your apps download to reduce your data usage by up to 80 percent, according to the designer.
- Buy the full version now: You know those annoying in-app ads? Those come from the Internet, meaning that even apps that dont require an Internet connection are probably downloading image after image (or even streaming video), contributing to your overage fees, and over time likely costing more than the $2 the app makers are asking.
- Know which Internet activities cost you the most bandwidth: Another great feature in Onavo is that it tells you how much data each app is using, so mobile users can keep tabs on which apps are costing them the most data. You may be surprised to find that many apps run in the background.
- Use WiFi whenever possible: Your smartphone can connect to wireless networks, so do it. 3G users will reach higher speeds, and both 3G and 4G LTE users will be giving their monthly data allowances a breather. Coffee shops, hotels, McDonalds and other public spaces offer WiFi, and you can also make sure your phone automatically connects to WiFi in your home. Extra tips that makes WiFi use work to your advantage:Only upload videos or photos to social network sites when you are connected to WiFi, and consider an app like WeFi Pro, for the Android, that seeks out available WiFi networks and automatically connects you.
- Stream less at lower quality, or not at all: Streaming ten minutes of YouTube to your phone per day costs over 1GB per month. Listening toPandora for one hour a day uses about 1.7GB of data per month. Keep tabs on your usage. Spotify and YouTube alike offer bitrate options, to listen or watch at a lower quality that costs you less data. Better yet, download music, photos and videos directly from your computer to your phone via a USB cable whenever possible.
SEE ALSO: All About Mobile Broadband