In a world where more and more internet service providers are placing caps on the amount of data their customers can consume each month, now it’s more important than ever to know exactly how much data the most popular apps on your connection is using: streaming services.
Even though they might all stream in the same quality ranges (generally 480p to 4K for video, 128Kbps up to 320Kbps for audio), not all compression algorithms are created the same. How much data is your favorite streaming service using?
Might as well start with the biggest data user of them all in the room, Netflix. According to the company’s website, the Netflix streaming service breaks down like this in terms of the amount of data they use for each connection:
- 300MB per hour on the lowest video quality
- 700MB per hour for SD video quality
- 3GB per hour for HD video quality
- 7GB per hour for UHD (4K) video quality
This means if you have a 1TB cap (one of the more common cap rates in the United States), you could stream roughly 142 hours of 4K video before you reached your limit.
Hulu is one of the most watched streaming services in the US, which means that anyone with a data cap should keep a close eye on how much data the services is sucking up. Here are the stats:
- 680MB per hour in standard def
- 1.3GB per hour at 720p
- 2.7GB per hour at 1080p
Hulu is one of the few streaming services that doesn’t offer any sort of 4K option, so data-conscious streamers won’t have to worry about that overloading their cap.
Amazon Prime Video
Though Amazon Prime Video’s selection of movies and TV shows may not be as broad as its competitors, it still sucks up a comparatively large amount of data for every piece of media that leaves its servers:
- 800MB per hour in standard definition
- 2GB of data per hour in HD
- 6GB of data per hour in 4K
These figures mean that while both the HD and 4K streams of Amazon’s content compare nicely with its competitors, the standard definition eats up literally twice as much as Netflix. This suggests that even if you intentionally downgrade your Amazon stream to the lowest quality in order to save on data, it will still hit your cap pretty quickly.
Because songs take up such a smaller footprint than video, you shouldn’t really have to limit much of your Spotify usage over a monthly basis, even if you are operating under an oppressively low data cap. That said, add up enough of these streams across enough devices, and it’s obvious how that impact could add up quickly. All that said, it’s also much easier to determine the rate at which Spotify will use your data since the bandwidth is tied directly to the quality of the music:
- Normal quality (96Kbps) – 40MB of data per hour
- Medium quality (160Kbps) – 70MB of data per hour
- Extreme quality (320Kbps) – 150MB of data per hour
As long as you’re responsible about what types of content you’re streaming and how often, it’s unlikely that you’ll break through your data cap using streaming alone if it’s 1TB or higher. That said, streaming combined with gaming, downloading, and general browsing can quickly break through even the largest caps, so be sure you budget your hours carefully, and always choose the streaming quality option that fits your limit best!