Keeping an eye on internet data

Knowing the biggest data consumers can help you better manage your service


With members of many families working and studying from home during the coronavirus crisis, internet data consumption in most homes is likely much higher than normal.

Keeping an eye on your household’s data usage may sound challenging, but it can be pretty simple if you just stay on top of video. Here’s a look at some of the online activities that use the most data, starting, of course, with video:

Video streaming

The largest user of data on almost everyone’s internet plan is generally video streaming (and downloading). It’s just a fact that Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and all our other favorite video streaming services use the most data.

For every hour you spend watching Netflix, you’ll use about 1 GB of data per hour at standard video definition. If you’re watching in high definition, it’ll consume about 3 GB per hour and up to 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD. Those numbers are similar for Amazon.

In both cases, you can change your settings to reduce the amount of data you use.

For Netflix, go to Account > My Profile > Playback Settings, make your selection, then save it.

With Amazon Prime, click on video settings and select Good, Better or Best. “Good” uses the least amount of data and “Best” the most.

Hulu’s default setting is “best available,” so it’ll stream at the highest rate your plan’s speed allows (that can add up!). But they do offer a Data Saver setting that can slow down your consumption.

As these options suggest, these services are capable of streaming in very high definition, and the higher you go the more data is consumed. Think about what you actually watch to help you decide if it’s worth the data hit to go with the higher setting. If it’s the kids mostly watching cartoons or you viewing typical TV shows or movies, the lower settings are probably fine. Higher-end fare like sci-fi movies or sporting events will likely look better in higher definition.

At its standard setting, YouTube consumes slightly less than Hulu – about 500 MB of data per hour at the standard (480p) setting.

Video conferencing

Video conferences can use a lot of data. A 1:1 Zoom meeting with video at the standard setting, for example, can consume just over 1 GB an hour. And the more people you add to the meeting, the higher the data usage. You can decrease it by about 30 percent simply by opting out of video.

If all of the above sounds like it adds up to a lot of data, never fear. There’s plenty of fun things to do online that have much smaller data appetites.

Web browsing

This includes online shopping, news, the latest recipes and all of that. These general online activities use around 60 MB an hour. Keep in mind that news and other sites with videos will use more. Read the story and avoid clicking the video if you want to save even more data.

Social media

An hour of social media scrolling only uses about 120 MB. Again, that’ll increase slightly – to about 160 MB – if you watch videos. You can limit this further on Facebook by shutting off the Auto-Play Videos setting under Settings> Videos> Video Settings.

Music streaming

This is a data-friendly pastime. You’ll only go through about 150 MB of data an hour, so unless you’re partying all night long, this isn’t likely to add up to a lot.


Game-play isn’t typically a huge data gobbler, but it depends on the game. According to How-To Geek, games like Fortnite and Minecraft use about 100 MB of data per hour, and that’s typical of most games. The average will be between 40 MB and 150 MB.

Game downloads and updates, on the other hand, can be huge. A full download of Red Dead Redemption II on PC clocks in at nearly 150 GB. Mobile games tend to be smaller but can still go through lots of data.

Internet of things

All of those devices we’ve been adding to our homes in the past few years have their own data footprint, although most of them are fairly small. The big exception is, once again, video. If you have something like a Nest camera that’s saving all that footage to the cloud, it can add up quickly. Check out our blog about data and IoT.

While it’s good to have a general idea of how much data your favorite internet past times are using, we also offer a quick and easy way to keep tabs on it. You can monitor your data usage and also see your plan information at the Viasat customer portal.

Learn more about Viasat Residential service

Patti Rutkin is a fierce advocate of the customer experience. As the marketing lead for Viasat’s US residential business, she is responsible for raising awareness about Viasat’s home internet service within the communities it serves.