The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Data Roaming

What is data? What is roaming? What is data roaming?  Will Brexit affect data roaming? Who knows? The good news is we do!

Take a look below and we will guide you through the jargon, point out the potential costs and try and save you money when using your mobile data abroad.

Nowadays the majority of the apps we use on our smartphones use data. How much data is used is difficult to understand because it is measured in bits and bytes, kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) and gigabits (GB). We think that the first thing you need to understand is how much data a typical app uses per day, week and month before we try and explain how much that is going to cost you when you are not in the UK or Europe.

Do you tweet, Snapchat, Instagram, Faceboook, check Reddit, check your emails, read the newspaper, listen to music, watch video or use any other number of apps that are out there?  The most important thing to note is that all the above use data. How they use data can be controlled by settings within your phone, therefore their usage can be minimised. Let’s try and show you how much data each app uses for a basic function:

Girl on beach with phone


Updating your Twitter feed can actually prove to use quite a bit more data than you think, downloading a few dozen updates used about 70KB of data, if you do this about 10 times a day you would still use under 1MB and possibly only about 5MB a week or around 20MB a month.


Updates on Facebook use quite a bit more data, if you haven’t checked your updates for a while, you could be using nearly 200KB of data, if your update pulls in a few posts you could use about 50KB, 10 posts a day might be under 2MB a day,  14MB per week or close to 60MB a month.


Please remember that uploading photos to any app will use data, with reference to Facebook and Twitter is you upload photos expect your data usage to increase, however uploading a typical photo to google + and Picasa uses about 180kb per photo, because google shrinks the photos down to a maximum of 2048 pixels, post 10 photos per day and you could use about 1.8MB per day, 12.6MB per week or about 48MB per month.


You may or may not know that there are two different quality levels on YouTube, you can cut your data usage by as much as 60% by using the regular mode and not the high quality mode. A one minute clip using regular could be around 200KB, use HQ and it could be 7MB, let’s do the maths:

Watching 5 minutes of regular video per day would be 1MB, 7 MB per week and 28MB per month

Watching 5 minutes of HQ per day would be 35MB, 245MB per week or 980MB per month.


You can stream Spotify at varying quality levels, this affects the data usage:

  • Normal – streaming at around 96kbps (kilobits per second)
  • High- streaming at around 160kbs
  • Extreme – streaming at around 320kbs ( only with spotify premium)
  • Automatic- quality will vary based on your connections

Therefore the approximate usage per hour for each of the above is as follows:

  • Normal – 40MB per hour
  • High – 70MB per hour
  • Extreme – 150MB per hour

If we take the above and do the maths:

  • Normal – 1 hour per day 40MB, 7 hours per week 280MB, 28 hours per month 1.1GB
  • High – 1 hour per day 70mMB, 7 hours per week 490MB, 28 hours per month 1.9GB
  • Extreme – 1 hour per day 150MB, 7 hours per week 1.05GB, 28 hours per month 4.2GB

We hope you can see that how you use your apps can affect your data usage, a recent survey in the UK found that the average user consumes about 2.5GB per month, that means if you were to use your mobile data abroad a typical two week holiday would see the average person consume about 1.25GB. Now the big question is how much does that cost? The good news is that last year in June, new EU rules were brought in that slashed the cost of using data in most of Europe. ‘Roam like home’ was introduced on June 15th 2018 which means effectively the end of roaming charges.

Free roaming means that you won’t be charged extra to use your UK allowance of minutes, text or (most) data when in the EU. When you exceed you allowance or if you are pay as you go with no allowances, you will pay what you would pay in the UK. If you make a call to a landline or mobile that is within the EU the usage would be deducted from you allowance or billed at your UK rates. You will need to be careful about calling premium rate numbers in the EU as they may actually cost you more.

Most UK networks have set some fair usage policies on the exact amount of data that you can use while roaming, Three as an example have set a limit of 12GB for pay monthly and 9GB for pay as you go, but bear in mind this is regardless of the  allowance given with your tariff, this means that if you have 20GB data per month you will not be able to use your full allowance while roaming. EE have set a fair use policy of 15GB while roaming and as of yet Vodafone have not set one.

There are also some time limits set by the networks with regards to the amount of time you can roam in a 4 month period, this is set at 2 months, therefore if you are going to an EU country for more than 2 months it would be advisable to purchase a local sim card.

It is also interesting to note that these charges cover the larger economic area EEA. Your network provider may also now include other countries that you roam like home in, check with them to see each networks current list of charges and countries you can roam for free in.

How do you save data and money?

Simple, don’t stream video or music while using mobile data, an afternoon at the pool listening to Spotify could prove to be expensive,  change your settings on your phone to prohibit downloads over mobile data and wait for it; log onto free wifi whenever you get the opportunity, use that free wifi to upload photos and download music to listen to offline.

How will Brexit affect the EU rules on roam like home?

At the moment the UK is still a member of the EU, when the UK leaves the EU the rules will not apply, it is not clear at the moment what will happen so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated.

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