How Much Data Does a Hotspot Use?

Keep your mobile hotspot usage in check to avoid throttled speeds and overage fees.

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Last Updated: Dec 1, 2023
A black iPhone with its data settings open lying on a brown woven counter
Using your phone as a mobile hotspot is an excellent way to stay connected on the go, but it’s crucial to understand how much data it uses. (Image: Shutterstock)
  • Since mobile hotspots connect devices to the internet by using your phone plan’s data, it could cost you in the long run if you pay by the gig.
  • The amount of data your mobile hotspot uses will depend on the activities you engage in while using the hotspot.
  • Activities like HD streaming, video calls, and online gaming use more data than other tasks like browsing the web or scrolling through social media.

Most of us have received the dreaded message from our mobile carrier stating that we’re nearing our data limit for the month. There are lots of activities that contribute to data usage, including using your phone as a mobile hotspot. But how much data does a hotspot use? In this guide, we’ll cover how your carrier’s hotspot data limits work, the amount of data hotspots use for certain activities, and tips for tracking your data usage.


Understanding Your Hotspot Data Limits

Before we get into how much hotspot data certain activities use, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how your phone plan’s hotspot data limits work. There are a few different ways that carriers limit hotspot data:

  1. Integrated hotspot data: Some plans count any mobile hotspot data used toward your plan’s overall data allotment. So, if your plan comes with 20 GB of data per month, all your data use (hotspot or not) will count toward that 20 GB limit. If you exceed your data limit, your provider will charge you an overage fee. On the other hand, if you have an unlimited plan with this policy, you can theoretically use as much hotspot data as you want; however, your provider may throttle your speeds after you use a certain amount of data.
  2. Hotspot-specific data plans: Other carriers include a specific amount of high-speed hotspot data with their plans at no extra cost. Designated hotspot data does not count toward your plan’s overall data allotment. This practice is common amongst unlimited plans from the industry’s major carriers. For example, your plan could come with unlimited data and 50 GB of data designated for hotspot use. Once you’ve used your 50 GB of hotspot data, your carrier will slow down your speeds.


How Much Data Does a Hotspot Use?

The amount of data your hotspot uses will depend on your activities on the devices connected to your hotspot. Some activities, like sending emails or surfing the web, use only a few megabytes, while other things, like streaming Netflix or watching YouTube videos, use a lot more data, especially if you’re using ultra high definition (UHD) formats.

Consider your data limits, the type of plan you have, and what activities you typically use your hotspot for as you explore the data usage chart below:

Activity Approximate data use per hour
Email Less than 1 MB
Web browsing 60 MB
Using social media 90 MB
Streaming music 40 MB to 150 MB
YouTube in SD 240 MB
Online gaming 30 MB to 300 MB (depending on the game)
Zoom calls 810 MB
Streaming Netflix in HD 3 GB
Streaming videos in 4K 8 GB


How to Track Your Data Usage

If you find yourself hitting your hotspot data limit every month, or you just want a better idea of how much data you’re burning through, tracking your data usage can be helpful. There are a few simple ways to track your data.

Phone Settings

Most smartphones allow you to view your data usage in the settings. Each phone model will have slightly different steps to access those settings, but here are some general directions for iPhones and Android phones:

On an iPhone

Screenshot of cellular settings on an iPhone device
Track your data actively using your iPhone to see a breakdown of how much data individual apps use.
  1. Open Settings, and tap Cellular.
  2. Scroll down to the header labeled Cellular Data. You’ll see how much data you’ve used during the Current Period. You can continue scrolling down to see how much data each individual app uses.
  3. Your iPhone’s data tracker doesn’t reset automatically with your carrier’s billing cycle, so if you want to track how much data you use per cycle, you’ll need to reset it manually. To do so, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap Reset Statistics.

On an Android

Screenshot of mobile data usage on an Android device
Much like iPhone, Android also offers app-level data tracking.
  1. Open Settings, and tap Network & internet.
  2. Tap SIMs to open your carrier’s data menu, where you’ll find your monthly usage.
  3. Tap App data usage to see a breakdown of your app usage for the monthly period.
  4. Tap the gear icon to set a data warning or data limit if you’re worried about going over your plan’s data allotment.

Data Usage Apps

Screenshot of the Data Manager mobile app shows current data usage and forecasted data usage.
Mobile apps like Data Manager can track your monthly data usage and send alerts when you’re nearing your limits.

There are several handy mobile apps that you can download to track your data usage for you. You can input the length of your billing cycle and your plan’s data limit. Then, the app will track everything for you. Each app has different features, but some of the most popular include notifications when you’re nearing your data limit, a breakdown of your usage over time, and projected usage for the remainder of the month. As the app collects more data over time, you can see patterns in your data usage.

Your carrier’s mobile app or online account portal

Most major cell carriers have an online portal or mobile app that lets you see your data usage. You can even set up alerts so the carrier will notify you when your data limit is near. Following the steps to set up these alerts will depend on your specific carrier.