Data exhaustion – Here is why your internet bundle depletes rapidly

Being part of measures to contain the ravaging coronavirus, certain phases of lockdown was imposed on citizens across the country. These measures however resulted to a resort to virtual working by persons from all works of life, and consequently to an increased use of the internet. This came with its problems: subscribers decried successive network failures, probably due to the spike in use. Regular among the burgeoning complaints are dissatisfactions centred on the rate of data exhaustion.

The Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, an umbrella body currently overseen by the ministry of Communications and Digital Economy oversights the activities of mobile network operators in Nigeria as well as protects the subscribers against possible short-change.

The commission says beginning from 30th march 2020, the date a total lockdown was initiated by the federal government, it has received increased complaints from subscribers about how their internet data depletes unusually unlike during pre-lockdown. The NCC further disclosed its receipts of complains about poor quality of data services from these operators.

Data exhaustion

However, quality of service isn’t what this explainer would concentrates on; it would be centred on the former, data depletion.

Data usage overview

Internet or mobile data is simply an access token sold or offered as bonus to subscribers to enable them access the internet.

These are metered to the end users depending on the amount paid for it. Once a data plan is exhausted or it’s validity date has been reached, a subscriber automatically gets disconnected from the internet.

So ideally, internet data usage is relative to the amount of data used. That is, the rate at which internet data is expended is inversely proportional to internet usage – the more internet activity you perform, the more your data tends to zero.

Opening a 500kb webpage should relatively attract a deficit of same 500kb of data from a bought bundle, if all conditions were to be ideal. Unfortunately, these aren’t so, as most users have noted, therefore we introduce another heading to better understand why.

Data exhaustion: What exhausts mobile data?

Mobile data is engaged when one accesses any social media platforms, through their respective apps or web browsers. Popular social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, needs data to run them. Social media applications

In a similar way, online activities like surfing the internet, no matter how short-timed it might be, requires internet connection and consequently internet data. The latter is even more expended if the subscriber residents on a dynamic portal. Dynamic portals or websites are those that constantly interacts with the user; they are opposite of static websites and contains changing information. Almost all websites are dynamic.

Video-chatting and conferencing applications like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp Video all need data to run. These conferencing platforms do require more data than other light-weight online activities because the data engaged here are used for simultaneous but rapid upload and download of the running-pictures and sounds. These certainly requires much data.

Another online activity that does require internet data is online gaming. Such gaming doesn’t only require comfortable heap of data, a good internet connectivity is necessary in order to be afforded with a seamless experience.

Streaming audios or videos, as well as downloads or uploads requires internet data. Reading emails and getting updates on your devices are possible because you’ve subscribed to a data plan, or more rightly put, you have an internet data on your mobile line.

Data exhaustion: Data could be engaged without your notice

When your connection is on, there is high probability that certain background applications or software are using your bought data even when you are presently running an operation on a foreground application.

Data exhaustion

These background operations could be instanced when your smartphone searches for updates, or synchronises some of the information it has. Email is one of such application that sync data if given permission.

Majorly, aside from system updates (which in most cases needs an operator’s permission to start a download after an update is discovered), others from secondary application do always consume pocket-sized data.

What happens if my mobile data remains switched off excepts when needed

Switching off your data connection when through with any internet operation is a smart way of conserving data, reducing battery consumption, as well as keeping your device in an optimal state. However, if a necessary data saving technique isn’t employed, data would still be consumed when you put it on, as it would have been if you had kept it on (might be just slightly higher if left on).

Data exhaustion

What happen here is that the notification that aren’t updated because the connection was kept off, would be synced and brought to your notice when connection is finally on. This take the same data volume as it would have if it had popped-up timely. The only condition that makes data consumption slightly higher when connection is kept on is because certain permitted applications would synchronise their data regularly (probably few minutes) so as to keep them updated.

Aside that, there is no relative disparity in data consumption when a data connection is kept on and when it’s only switched on when in need of it.

Approximate value of data consumed when performing certain services

The NCC provides an estimated value of data consumed when some online operations are performed. These although are mere estimations, could become an important blueprint to be used before performing any online activity. It gets you an impression on how much you would spend on each online activity.

The estimations are:

1 Hour of Social Media200mb
1 Hour of Browsing60mb
1 Hour of Instant Messaging with video calls140mb
1 Hour of streaming music60mb
1 Hour of Streaming Videos350mb (Non HD) and 1GB (HD)
1 Email sent or received with attachments500kb
1 minute of connected game play60mb

Data exhaustion - data usage

Network speeds do influence data exhaustion

In a recent analysis on the telecom operator with the fastest network speed in the country, an outline on the various internet speed realities across different operators with respect to all the generations of technology was made.

There’s no way internet speed is mentioned that generation of technology isn’t. An increased internet speed is possible by virtue of variance or upgrade in generation of technology.

Opening a particular webpage or performing a particular online activity with different generation of technology would attract a uniform data haul. However, since our online activities aren’t usually single, we tend to perform more online activities when the network is swift.

This leads to more data consumption than anticipated.

You can regulate the rate of data consumption

Data exhaustion could be regulated by changing one’s browsing culture and adhering to data saving recommendations. Prominent of which are:

Data exhaustion — Limiting data usage on apps

Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter auto-play videos, and this action consumes data. Avoid this unnecessary data exhaustion by switching off video auto-plays on the different apps.

YouTube and other streaming platforms also automatically play contents. Switch them off to save data.

Data exhaustion — Curtailing time spent on social media

Another data conserving strategy is by limiting the time spent on social media. These social platforms displays lots of pictures, and this takes reasonable amount of data. This could perfectly be handled by enabling the digital wellbeing function of your smartphone. This new introduction to the Android operating system helps you set time limits on applications you access daily.

Digital wellbeing
Digital wellbeing - app timer

Setting the minimum time span for your social media and all other internet applications conserves more data. However, it all boils down to how self-controlled one is. Many who seem unfavored by their restricted access to these social media applications, having exhausted a set daily duration on it, might go on to deactivate the digital control, bringing the data conserving strategy to zilch.

Data exhaustion — Disabling notifications and updates

Notifications from social media applications eats into your data plan, no matter how minor it might be. Not only are they culprits in this, they offer to any user the reason to slide into the social platforms once the notices fly in once more. This online behavior is adverse to data conservation.

Data exhaustion — Setting a data limit and activating data saver

Activating data saver on your mobile smartphone allows restriction of some apps from using your internet connection. This feature is prominently displayed on the navigation menu which appears on status bar.
Data saver

Also, having bought a data plan, ensure to set a data plan limit on your mobile device. This helps in metering the data you’ve purchased, as well as offering you a warning when you’ve used much of your data.

This could be set by accessing Settings on your phone and tapping the following » Network & Internet » Data Usage » Billing Cycle.

If after taking the above-mentioned instructions into action, you feel defrauded by your service provider, the NCC demands you foremostly report the shortchange to your specific service provider with their 24/7 free calls short codes: 9mobile – 200; Airtel – 111; Globacom – 121; and MTN – 180. The regulator demands you obtain a “trouble ticket” from them, as it provides evidence of the time, date, nature and timeline for the resolution of your complaint.

If after complaining to the service provider, you are still discontented, the NCC needs you to report to them through any of the below-listed mediums with your trouble ticket clearly stated.

  • Call toll free – 622
  • Email – [email protected]
  • Twitter – @consumersNCC
  • Instagram – @ngrcomcommission
  • Facebook –

However, if you feel you weren’t cheated out of the data you purchased, and you have no competence to keep to the outlined data conserving instructions, you could access the catalog of cheap data plans available in the country for a more value packed bundle. Some favourable data plans could be personally sourced to your requirement, a tool we’ve provided just for you.


A potential electrical/electronics engineer in the making, a phone addict and a motivating partner.While he's not researching through with his phone, Daniel spends his time with the books.★ Fav. quote: The habit of persistence is the habit of victory! ★

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