Internet Radio and Data Usage
We can now access a wide variety of music and radio stations on our mobile phones via internet streaming. Internet radio can offer music to suit all tastes, news and current affairs, sports, talk shows and public service and private station access.
However, for those who have limited data contracts or are on lower data plans this can quickly eat up your allowance. Here’s how to minimise your radio app data usage.
How much data does internet radio use?
Internet radio allows you to listen to a huge range of radio stations from all over the world. Most DAB and FM radios will offer internet functionality but it is also possible to access these services through dedicated apps on smartphones and tablets.
Unlike traditional broadcasts, internet radio can be accompanied by photos and graphics and can include text and links. This makes it possible for listeners to interact with the broadcast and take action such as ordering a product or service.
This can be problematic if you have a limited data allowance or a contract with an internet provider who limits your data usage. If you are listening to online radio for long periods of time, you could find yourself using up all of your available data very quickly. Thankfully, there are some workarounds which can help you avoid this problem. Here are some of them:
How do I know how much data I’m using?
It’s no longer just about CDs and FM radio on the car radio, many modern cars can stream music via a built in Bluetooth transmitter and you can also connect a smartphone to play your favourite radio station from any app. Some people who are contracted to limited data packages may have a concern that they will be using too much data listening to radio apps.
The amount of data that a radio app will use can vary quite significantly, depending on the bit rate (in technical terms kbps or kilobits per second) of the streaming audio. Higher bit rates will use more data than lower bit rates.
One hour of listening to a stream on a 128kbps radio app will use around 60MB of data. So if you listen to the radio on your commute or workday each weekday then over the course of a month you will use up around 2.5GB of data.
What can I do to avoid going over my data limit?
Streaming radio through an app can be a great way to get your fix of the latest hits, tv shows or news. However, it can be easy to go over your data limit without realising and end up with a hefty bill.
To avoid this, try and only listen to radio on Wi-Fi wherever possible. Some apps allow you to turn off high quality streaming which can help, or use an app that provides a detailed breakdown of how much data each stream uses.
For iOS users, you can also check your cellular data usage in the settings menu (under ‘Cellular’). There are also third-party apps available for both Apple and Android that provide this information. You may also want to consider choosing a radio app that does not require a subscription or is free to download. This could save you a lot of data in the long run! A good place to start is using a comparison site like Uswitch.
How do I know if I’m using too much data?
Radio apps can be a great source of entertainment when travelling or on your lunch break, but they do tend to use quite a lot of data. This can lead to a nasty shock when you get charged for going over your data limit at the end of the month.
Streaming audio uses about 128 kilobytes per minute at standard quality, which equates to about 60MB an hour. However, higher quality streams use a much larger amount of data.
Many of the best internet radio apps have settings that allow you to adjust the audio quality to reduce your data usage. In addition, there are several apps that will monitor and alert you when your data usage is close to your cap. This can help you avoid a nasty surprise when your bill comes. Alternatively, if you’re worried about data usage, try switching to a provider that offers unlimited internet. This will give you peace of mind that listening to the radio won’t cause a large drain on your data allowance.