How do I buy data?


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How do I buy data?

A grandfather and child sharing a tablet and laptop computer together

What's coming up

In this activity you'll learn that:

  • Data is sold in plans.
  • A plan lets you to use a certain amount of data each month.
  • Home internet and mobile internet data plans work differently.
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The data plan

When you buy a home or mobile internet service, part of the cost is in the connection itself and the equipment your provider supplies.

But most of the cost comes from what is known as a data plan. This is charged on a subscription or contract basis, most commonly by the month. Your data plan allows you to use a certain amount of data each month.

A comparison of different mobile and home internet plans
A graphic depicting the many different things you can do on a large home network plan

How data is counted, or measured

Internet providers measure data in gigabytes, or GB.

Most mobile or home internet plans include a certain number of gigabytes of data for you to use per month. The more GB in the plan, the higher the price of the plan.

How data is tracked

As you use the internet, your provider keeps count of how much data gets sent to your home (for a home account) or to your mobile phone (for a mobile account).

In other words, they keep count of the number of GB (gigabytes) of data you are using.

A diagram of how much data has been used
A comparison between last month's data use and this month's

Data plans reset each month

At the end of your billing period, which is usually one month, the data count resets. You then get the same amount of data to use in the next month.

Internet providers do not refund money for any data you did not use in a month. Some providers, however, let you save up unused data and roll it over to the next month. This is often called rollover data.

Home data plans

A home data plan usually offers several hundred gigabytes of data per month for you to use. This is a generous allowance that means you can watch movies, catch-up TV, and use lots of devices on the internet at home.

But this data can only be used at home. If you go out, your devices won't be able to use the home data allowance. Instead, you'll need a mobile data plan.

A big plan for a home internet is 1000GB
A big plan for a mobile phone, however, is only 10GB

Mobile data plans

A mobile data plan usually doesn't offer as much data as a home plan. You might only get 10 gigabytes, or even less.

But a mobile data plan can be used anywhere your phone can get mobile reception.

Buying a home data plan

When you're ready to buy a data plan, you can phone a provider's customer service number, go to its website or visit a shop. Usually, you'll buy a data plan at the same time as you buy a new mobile phone or sign up for a new home internet connection.

You can't buy a home internet connection without a data plan, so talk to customer service about which plan is right for you.

A graphic depicting a home internet plan contract
You can buy a mobile plan with or without a handset and vice versa

Buying a mobile data plan

It is possible to buy a mobile phone without a data plan, and just use the phone for making voice calls. If you want to use the internet on your phone, you can buy a plan later.

You can also buy a new data plan for a phone you already own. Call customer service or go into the provider's shop to talk about which plans will work with your phone.

Which data plan should I buy?

If you hardly use the internet, a small plan is the right fit. If you do a lot online, you might need the largest plan.

Call the provider's help line or go into the provider's shop to talk to a staff member about what you use the internet for, and how often you use it. They will be able to recommend the plan that fits you best.

A depiction of a person manning a help line

Let's check

Decide if the following statements are true or false. Click each card to see the answer.

We measure 'data' in 'gigabytes'.

Click to flip

This is true.

We often abbreviate the term gigabytes to ‘GB' when we write.

Internet providers will refund you the money for any data you did not use in a billing month.

Click to flip

This is false.

If you don't use up all your data, you still get charged for it.

You can't buy a home internet connection without a data plan.

Click to flip

This is true.

You can't buy a home internet connection without a data plan.


This is the end of the How do I buy data? activity. You've learned that a home internet plan or mobile internet plan includes an amount of data, measured in gigabytes (GB), to use each month.

You've also learned that the data count resets each month, and that a home plan usually offers more data than a mobile plan.

Next, you'll learn some more about how things on the internet use up your data, and how some content uses more data, in the How is data measured? activity.

A relaxing moment with a tablet device and a cup of coffee