Wireless basics: cellular vs. home data

Cellular data vs. home dataA cellular data usage question recently came up, so it never hurts to review data usage strategies.  A new mobile phone owner was getting data overage charges from her carrier.  She had a 1GB limit, so there was surprise she had overage charges.  Her Blackberry Z10 was being a data hog, but regardless of the reasons, we should consider using Wi-Fi whenever possible on our smart phones.

Perhaps you’ve just got your fancy new smart phone, or maybe you’re a salty veteran that is ramping up mobile data usage.  There is so much content available and things like video can chew through data at an amazing rate.  Mobile carriers are starting to provide decent data limits, so you should review your plan as sometimes a new plan will give you more for the same monthly bill.

Either way, this is a reminder to use your home Wi-Fi when possible – just go into the settings on your iOS device, Android or even BlackBerry Z10 to get it on your home network.  There is also free Wi-Fi almost everywhere these days, and if you use Shaw for Internet, you can use their Shaw Go Wi-Fi service that is included with your service.  Just be aware that any Wi-Fi data, especially public Wi-Fi, could be watched by particularly nerdy criminals, but for casual Internet use you’re likely OK.  (If you’re concerned with improving Internet security, you can look into a VPN service like Private Internet Access.)

You should also be aware that home Internet data plans also have data usage caps.  These are huge relative to cellular plans, so unless you’re really into BitTorrents or other heavy data use, you should be fine for now.  For example, Shaw’s 25M plan has 250GB included.  If you’re a Telus customer, they technically have limits and its only a matter of time before they too enforce them.

With the explosion of Netflix and other video services, caps may be a problem for all of us though.  Its a good idea to understand your mobile and home data use and what your plan provides.  It takes a bit of extra work, but shopping around can save you money too.