In Uganda, there is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth (there is but you have to pay a lot!).   In the first few months I was very conscious of how much data we use.   The strict rule in the house is no Youtube video because it uses up a lot of data.

I’ve been trying to figure out how much data a Youtube video consumes on average. The complication comes from two factors:  a video can be display in different resolution and a video is streamed automatically when the page is loaded.

Usually a video will play from the following resolution: 144p, 240p, 360p, 480p, 720p, and 1080p.  Of course, the higher the number means better quality and more data a Youtube video uses.  The other problem is that the instant the page is loaded, the video is automatically streamed (and how much data is used will depend on your connection speed).  This means the video will use data even if you haven’t finish watching the video.

There’s no simple app to capture the data Youtube video uses.  I have to come up with my own method.  Granted, it is not 100% accurate as I have to measure the stream data manually.  However, it is 95% accurate and for me that’s a pretty good estimate.

Since data is streamed automatically, I choose to select a video that’s one minute long so it doesn’t take too much bandwidth. There are many choices online and I chose this 100 years beauty video:

100 Years of Beauty – Episode 2: USA (Marshay)

Note: This ain’t what I normally watch but it plays in all Video Quality and it is only one minute long.

To measure the data being used, I use NetLimiter. It is a simple program that shows me which program uses data.

The experiment is simple. I will load up my Chrome browser (all Add-ons are disabled) and play the video. After playing it once and all the data is streamed, I will hit pause and move the controller to the start of the video. I will change the Video Quality (240p, 360p, 480p, 720p, and 1080p) and reset NetLimiter. This will trigger the page to stream the video in that Video Quality. Rinse and repeat until all measurements are recorded.

Measuring data Youtube video used

Measuring data Youtube video used

Youtube Video Quality
Data used per minute
1.90 MB
2.70 MB
4.40 MB
7.70 MB
720p HD
14.50 MB
1080p HD
27.61 MB

1 Feb, 2016 Update: I did the measurement again and I noticed that the data usage has gone up for each Video Quality. Not sure if this has to do with Youtube starting to stream videos in HTML5 instead of Flash.

As you can see a Youtube 1080p High Definition video uses up three times as much as a video shown in 480p (the default Quality).

If your Internet data is limited, I hope this post will help you gauge how much Youtube videos you can watch!

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