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How much data does iPlayer use?

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Data hog: the iPlayer uses more data than the BBC says

The BBC iPlayer is a great service for either catching up on programmes or watching live BBC channels, but if you’re watching via mobile data you may need to keep an eye on how much data it’s chomping through. How much data does iPlayer use? It’s more than the BBC claims, if my tests are anything to go by.

What does the BBC say?

The BBC has a support page for watching BBC iPlayer on mobile data. On that, it claims that:

An hour-long TV programme will typically useĀ 225MB of data.

In my tests, that is a woeful underestimate.

How much data does iPlayer really use?

BBC iPlayer

I streamed a 30-minute episode of Here We Go over a 4G connection using the BBC iPlayer app for Android. In that short time, it used 411MB of data, which is around four times as much data as the BBC website suggested.

Therefore, be careful if you’re on a mobile data plan with a tight data cap, because you could find that watching shows on iPlayer whilst you’re out and about eats through a lot more data than you might expect.

It’s also worth noting that (on Android, at least) I couldn’t find any way of adjusting the streaming quality, so you’re pretty much stuck with whichever rate the iPlayer app decides. In my tests, the bitrate looked adaptive, which means the quality of the video is automatically altered depending on the available mobile data bandwidth. So, it is possible that some streaming sessions will use less data than I observed.

How much data do iPlayer downloads use?

I downloaded that same 30-minute episode of Here We Go for offline viewing, and that took up 375MB of storage on my device. It looked to be the same quality as the show I streamed.

Obviously, you can download shows over Wi-Fi for later viewing, so that would be a much better option if you’re on a mobile plan with a tight data limit.

The BBC iPlayer app does allow you to download shows on mobile data too, but that isn’t enabled by default. You’ll have to dive into the app’s settings if you want that switched on.

BBC iPlayer

iPlayer not working on your smart TV?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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